I am enchanted with painting the combine. The scale! There is nothing to prepare in order to paint; it lies in wait. Last night I dreamed about it and woke up with new ideas, barely waiting for the dew to dry to paint some more. The beautiful thirsty rust is already gorgeous in the patterns that have been created over the years. Keeping a delicate touch on what is painted and what is left natural, is the dance. The purples against rust makes me swoon. My work on canvas is benefiting from these new eyes.
This old Oliver combine was beautiful as it stood, but was hidden in a patch of fast growing trees on the north end of the property. With a 4020 tractor and a lot of enthusiasm, we pulled it out into the light and placed it near the studio. The lichen covered rust is a beautiful neutral background for some color.
I travel with small squares of good cold press paper and a few bottles of paints, pencils and small brushes. The work tends to be journalistic – a short hop from feeling to form. Watching pelicans roll by in great swooping curves, diving for fish, shake the catch down their throats, spawned these studies.
I’m on the Florida Gulf in large part to work; it always having been such a fertile place for painting, but it hasn’t been happening. Having come off of an extremely intensified time in the studio in December, perhaps it’s creative fatigue, and surely in part physical fatigue, given that my methods for painting and scale call for considerable energy and strength.
A fresh 30 yard roll of canvas is propped up against the kitchen wall, breathing it’s coppery breath down my neck as I go by. Paint bottles mixed, brushes, pencils, paper, boards set up outside to work on, not a single inclination or movement towards them is detected. I walk the beach, walk and walk and walk, no urge to consider shape, line, color. I feel guilty.
This past year, intensely focused OUT – studio building, negotiations, concrete pads, vistas, horizons, mass bird migrations, space, canvases large enough to depict space, series multiplying and expanding to 12 paintings deep, every foot of wall space having something pinned to it. But January has been an inward turn.
On the shore, Instead of as usual watching the vast body of water, the birds in flight, the horizon line, I keep finding myself kneeling, pulling in closer and closer to the intimate, camera held as close as it will focus, to see the tiny jewels of the sea, the bubbles from retreating waves, bird tracks, the tiny shadows of bird tracks. Seeing that each is a universe. Everything is a universe!
(The cosmic so readily available by the sea.)
With 3″ square pieces of paper, a few pencils, some watercolor – the beginnings of inspiration.
I worked all of November in the dazzling, illuminated tall space of the new studio, painting with some tired colors and a rusty process that was no longer alive. It was painful and unchanging, with dark days of autumn reflecting the mood.
At last, I gave up completely the idea of painting and began to simply live in the studio, day after day, bringing nourishment for body and soul: art related books and magazines, Japanese tea, piano concertos, breakfast lunch and dinner. Lovely but grim at first.
Gradually, in all that quiet space and time, a tree or spine form and the space around it, began to form in my mind’s eye.
Canvases very wet, grays, blacks, dark greens over weird yellow under paintings, slamming paint filled brushes along edges for the joy and freedom of the process, rather than for the result, discovering new cause/affects. Discovery is so vital to keeping one’s art alive, thrilling!
When completing this 12′ piece, I realized the series would be called “Ground and Space”. I’d been wallowing in space, and lacking ground! The studio enveloped me; I enveloped the studio. It has been a warm embrace.
Inside, outside, negative, positive, gravel and fur, rolls and rhyme, scarf and steps.
Like most artists, I’ve always carved out a place to work that had one criteria: available space. Working for years in a 100 year old sleeping porch without heat or cooling; on the living room floor covered in plastic; pinning canvases on round hay bales to finish; tacking canvases up on the side of the house or barn, and on clotheslines. Most recently I’ve been working between an abandoned basketball court and an upstairs bedroom with a wall knocked out, hauling paints and water and extension cords out to the court 50 yards from the house, hefting stained canvases back upstairs to finish, stretching canvases in the front hall, storing in the basement, maneuvering large finished work over a balcony when it won’t go down the stairs. So many stairs, so many 30 yard rolls of canvases and hoses and cords and pounds of paints and brushes on the move.
After years of dreaming and planning for this new studio, I’ve begun working on the completed concrete pads that are on two sides of the studio. There’s shade, water, electricity. The surface of the concrete is perfectly to spec: a tiny bit of texture to prevent slipping when it’s wet, but not enough to impact brush strokes on raw canvases laying flat, and smooth enough to avoid tearing up bare feet. Sawed cracks form golden ratios in key places for cutting canvases to size. It tilts a little less than industry standard, 1″ over 15′, so the paint will stay put when poured on canvas. The canvases can move directly from the pad, up 3 stairs and inside the studio to eventually pin on walls. The paints move on a table on wheels between work areas.
The ease and grace! Looking up from the intensity of the design, details, numbers, drawings and actual building, I’m catching a glimmer of how this can be.
The ever changing concrete patinas begin.
One empty day between crews, I moved into the studio for a blissful day of working/hanging/looking at canvases… long enough to realize that I can use every square inch of it’s mass. The wind blowing through the doors, and the natural light, makes the space feel alive.
When the concrete truck arrived, everyone started moving and didn’t stop until the last drop was poured and smoothed.
Here’s a time lapse recording, it is a short concrete ballet: https://youtu.be/krHO0rFY3x4
The Golden Ratio was used to determine sawed crack lines.
The edges are so crisp.
I can cut canvases without a tape measurer, in perfect proportions. It is now my largest and best tool.
The still-lightening grays are becoming even more beautiful.
The sanding crew was warm and fluid this morning, and moved as one, finishing each step within a minute of each other.
This time lapse clip shows them perfectly orchestrated, and they were synchronized with the many guitars on the radio, which isn’t heard now.
When they were packing up, I showed them this time lapse clip, http://youtu.be/xOzlCyoLvSo , and they laughed uproariously, slapping their legs and taking their hats off, running their hands through their hair, HAHAHAHA!!
They kept laughing all the way down the 3/8 mile long driveway. Then I could hear them turn onto the pavement, still laughing.
These patterns make me feel like my lungs are filled with oxygen.
Five years of planning a new studio, now becoming a reality!
The tallest wall is 17′, and the footprint is 32’x60′, which will allow tacking up multiple large scale canvases at once to view and complete, as well giving the physical space to really breathe and expand. For years, in order to get perspective and fine tune the piece, I’ve been tacking huge canvases up on the side of the house on a windless day, or spreading large work out on the grass and climbing to the top of the house/studio, dashing up and down the stairs to pour paint and make marks.
The building process is extraordinarily beautiful, feeling much more like a large scale sculpture project, than building construction. Long thoughtful planning to consider shapes and balance, placing windows and doors for best light and to track the sun’s movement, are now lifting off of the flat page and taking form! To walk under the trusses with the sun and sky above them, is to watch a beautifully choreographed, rhythmic dance.
I greatly admire these painters, their work thrills.