Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Let your wild side play!

There's a part of me that's buried deep inside, a non-conformist wild side, a misbehaving child who I'm afraid to let out because god knows what demons she's going to unleash this time. It's a sexual, innocent, wondering creature who wants to dance, to explore, to enjoy her own company. The only time this wild spirit gets let out is while I'm painting. It doesn't matter what I'm painting. What matters is that it's a huge weight off my shoulders to let this hidden shameful part of me off the leash.

This is why when more and more life responsibilities are weighing on me, I find this time in the studio more and more needed. I retreat more and more into my shell.

Even in the process of painting my holding onto recognizable imagery and symbols is a sign of something holding me back. When it's just colors reaching deep into my soul, and textures playing like notes on my subconscious, that's when I truly love the process. Yet, at the end, the more reasonable, calculative, bashful side of me takes over and envelops it all in form, something like a fence to hold in all the raw emotions. When, oh when will they finally become unfenced?

Two of my students accidentally came into my studio and helped me melt wax. The sheer joy in their faces was unbelievable! How I'd love to simply be fulfilled with that joy.

Friday, December 16, 2016

My Favorite Artists on Instagram

As I explore Instagram as an outlet for my art, and as part of #taaigchallenge, I'm seeing some really great work, and I feel it's important to share it as means of inspiration.
I thought once in a while everyone needs some inspiration, so here are some of my favorites:

I love patches of harmonious color like #UweKowski
I love scraped off surfaces a la #Gerhard Richter
I love ghost trees in the style of #WolfKahn
I'd love my line to be as piercing as Hiroshige Fukuhara
I think the saturated scenes of Stevnn Hall are amazing
The color harmonies are simply perfect in Julia Powell's work:
and I'd love my symbols to be as spiritual as #Wassily Kandinsky, whose birthday is today incidentally...

But god damn it, I want it to be my language that combines all those and transforms into something new, blended seamlessly, yet making a contrasting statement. It'll stem from nature but be taken to an imaginary paradise: where borders are barely visible, where sky falls onto earth, and sand can rise to meet crashing waves. It's where trees can spread their curious branches far into the amplified skies, and they can separate the landscape into mini-icons where one's eyes rest while taking a break from the whole spectacle. It's now my color theory and not Quiller's or Kandinsky's. It'll be my melted, scratched, layered world where I can fit in all my hopes and aspirations, my struggles and disappointments.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Do you see recurring symbols?

There're forms that want to come back time and again, symbols that allow me to uncover certain truths, highlight what hides beneath.

An arched stone bridge - what is the significance of its recurring draw for me? Is it the playful texture of the stones, with enigmatic treasures reflecting in the water below? Is it the contrast of manmade patterns, so carefully assembled, against the smooth reflections of the trees, their branches haphazardly yet gorgeously striking the void?

If I am indeed always painting how I feel about myself, then is it that struggle of contrasts that draws me in? To be agreeable, yet enigmatic, and ambitious but understood, daring, provocative but feminine, delicate, beautiful, balanced, in harmony? Yes, quite a few contradictions to stuff into one painting, with the hope that they will all be apparent to the viewer, that they will all be accepted. What if just some of them are apparent? Or what if the onlooker only sees what he/she wants to see, irrelevant of my struggles and intent?

These symbols which might mean one thing to me, and something entirely different to someone else, they're still elements of a pictorial language through which we communicate. And communication is never easy, even if we all speak the same tongue. We always miss nuances, refuse to see what's just below the surface. Do you see a woman hiding in this painting?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Do you ever wish for a Do-over?

This is the first time I painted over one of my old canvases. Typically, it's very tough for me to let go of even my most disliked pieces, but I wanted this challenge of working on top of something already formed. I thought it would be so wonderful to already have a textured work from the get go, so that I wouldn't have to spend the time establishing texture from the ground up. How fundamentally wrong was I!

All the lines and grooves are formed in all the wrong places for this current piece, and every new layer is going against the grain of what's already established. It's like you're trying to change someone whose personality has been formed long ago.

At some point, however, you realize that old scars won't go away. All you can do is simply work with them, bring a new light to them, a brighter life. Yes, it is typically escapism that I'm after in my work, but it doesn't have to erase all notions of my reality. It can bring me to a new place by building on top of what's there.

 It comes out as an antiqued Instagram photo, with patches of seemingly forgotten white space open for interpretation. Some layers are scratched off to the very core of my original marks, with a new mask seemingly hiding all wounds. However, the more you add to an existing patch of texture, the more sophisticated it becomes...

Monday, September 26, 2016

Do all your problems need constant attention?

Foreground and background - what is important first and what needs to recede back - that was the overlaying message of this piece. I want this shift between voids and built up areas. At the same time, however, I want things to melt into one another. Yet, I keep on insisting that something sticks out.

Problems can't all be important at the same time. We're all constantly shifting our priorities but every time it's a struggle as everything seems equally important. Yet, if you treat all elements the same, then they're all flat - there's a lack of focus. It doesn't take a lot - numb one area with a duller hue and that instantly highlights another. Darken the background to contrast it with the foreground. Scrape away unwanted brightness and everything will become more subdued. Create and outline and things will adjust to their new forms and shapes.

And then it doesn't all have to be solved. Some areas can be left alone, remain as they are - not all issues are worth fighting for. Not all problems need our constant attention. There's a point when you simply learn to let it go. Perhaps a solution comes to you in another painting or life situation. Perhaps, it's simply not an issue after all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to enter the 4th dimension!

What has this painting experience been about? It seemed like there was so much happening - different brushstrokes, painting with negative space, frustrations with the carrying out of the idea. Yet I think what kept creeping back is this search for a time warp.

I keep noticing that when I paint, I enter a timeless zone. The clock seems to stop. I accomplish so many transformations. A whole myriad of thoughts, directions, critiques are streaming through my mind. I look back and notice that only a half hour passed, or an hour, or I've been at it for three hours. I've managed to enter a fourth dimension - I'm in the past, and in the present, and in the future at the same time.

My painting practice beckons me to let go of everyday worries and step into a different space, a transformative experience where nothing else matters but my color mixing, final application and the movement of the composition. It is so tempting to get away from it all, to remain in solitude, in conversation only with my own thoughts. It's more addicting than any drug - this desire to understand the depths of me.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Do you ever want to turn into a tree?

What's the significance of a girl turning into a tree? Is it a good thing or a bad thing? Why is it that every time she looks more human in this painting I get annoyed and every time she turns too unrecognizable I get equally frustrated?

If I am that girl - what am I gaining by this transformation? Is it oneness with nature, complete solitude from humankind, true expression? Why is it so scary? Is it because I'm losing myself: my softness, my uniqueness? I'm losing my limbs, my curviness, the features that make me - me. I have body sensations as a hand turns into a branch; it wants to unstick itself from this hardened mess. It feels as if I'm losing a battle to crazy glue... But then I'm gaining perpetuity, aren't I? No. Trees are as prone to dying, getting sick, suffering from cold and heat as we are, if not more.

So I'm sitting here marking pluses and minuses and figuring out which outweighs the other. But the main issue is that I'm still drawn to this idea, in love with this idea of a human turning into a tree. I even made a larger than life painting of Daphne in college that was stolen from the studio. What is there that keeps my attention? Perhaps this struggle I'm going through is actually my living through this transformation? In order to gain immortality of sorts you become hard-skinned, you lose bits of your genuine self. You don't know where to strike the balance.

I'd like to watch my kids quietly, yet be ready to step in at a moment's notice, not be paralyzed like a tree. This paralysis is really a paralysis of thought. I get stuck in this idea of fame, recognition, money making that I lose my genuine, original self. My limbs go one by one. Hands are so stuck in tree puss that they can no longer perform.

No, I want to be Daphne who hides in a shape of a tree, but not forever. She uses it as a temporary asylum but she's able to quietly come out of that masked existence and return to humanity. She should be able to do that. Trees are people that lost their way...

Thursday, May 5, 2016

If Henri Rousseau persevered - we all can!

It was going so well up until judgment day. There were experiments and free play. There was a sense of joy in discovery, a feeling a pioneer or a scientist might have mixing unconventional techniques and ideas. And after a number of compliments I decided I'll put this piece into a juried museum call. In order to do that, I needed to finish it that day and all of a sudden I froze.

All these preemptive feelings of shame of rejection, the nervous anxiety of anticipation overtook my creative flow. I couldn't put down a single stroke without worrying that it'll ruin the piece.

How is it that some people are such natural salesmen? How is it that their stomachs don't churn at the thought of criticism and disapproval? Why does the life of an artist have to be so full of punishments?

Yes, I can tell myself time and again that this isn't about someone's appreciation of my work. But that's a lie. I want to be seen, I want the attention these pieces deserve. I want them bought, auctioned off, hanging in museums. I want to be earning money as an artist. Why even after so many years in the industry do I not get the formula? Is my art too shallow, too impersonal? Do people need to bleed from the inside in order for me to succeed? You take what's most precious to you, turn yourself inside out and only then do you get noticed? Or does it have to be completely void of any personal touch and be an abstract blob?

I'm just thrilled I had read a children's book to my students recently on the life of Henri Rousseau, on his yearly rejections and his ability to persevere. If only I could have the same strength and not take this whole process so close to heart...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Embrace all your different realities!

You start painting an object and move it into an abstract composition of shapes. It seems to lack depth so you add light and shade, you construct believable grooves and folds. Then this something starts to look like another recognizable subject. You run with it and add more elements that will turn it into a fish, or a person, or a hilltop. Once you're past this layer, all you see is that central shape of a physical being and it annoys you tremendously that this is no longer just an abstract painting that is free to be anything. Does our eye always seek something recognizable to hold onto? Do I as a painter and in my real life need to steady myself with reality?

You turn the piece upside down and tell yourself that you'll start from scratch. You can simply see lines and shapes and colors, without needing to go anywhere else. Yet, within ten seconds your eye begins to search out recognizable imagery - formal elements of a painting aren't enough for it to chew on.

Perhaps it's the nature of shapes and lines to be suggestive. With one stroke Japanese calligraphers evoke a mountain top because they know our eyes will complete the scene on their own. So why should I try to run away from suggestive imagery? Why not embrace as many realities as come to mind? When the landscape is full of incomplete spaces, our eyes are able to take it in and add to it in just the same way they see things in an abstract shape. It's about doing more with less. Wouldn't that be a nice life motto?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Let your inner child play as long as she wants

Reflecting on a memory of a real landscape brings so many questions. Even after I figured out the mood for the painting, and limited my palette accordingly, I was still struggling with just how precise this depiction needs to be. As much as I wanted to leave the reality of the scene, things like perspective, shapes and textures of specific subjects were forcing me to stop and reconsider my every move.

When does this adherence to reality take a break, and lets the imagination take over? How can I open a door to creativity if a constant logical critic sits on my shoulder and demands accuracy and academic realism? How did Kandinsky accomplish this feat? To have a landscape and to not have it at the same time? To let shapes, colors and lines take over the composition? To have a real scene turn mythical, become a dreamscape?

I guess a lot of it is a dance of inner voices, but in a dance there's always a leading partner. How can the lead shift to a more abstract thinking section of the brain? Perhaps these voices relinquish control and don't take turns? When there's a real marriage of color and line - the trick is to not turn on the switch back to observation, and to just let yourself sink into the simple pleasures of mixing colors, the way a little child would, for hours.Yes, that is it. Just like I force myself (not always successfully) to not interfere and let my children play their game of choice for as long as they need, I need to not rush my inner child, and let her play as long as she wants. Then just stop before judgment kicks back in.

Then the goal is to repeat this for every painting session...and for every child's invented game.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How important are your acquaintenance relationships?

As I embarked on the color theory journey along with my students, I feel that I'm getting lessons in subtlety. When you limit yourself to the very basic means, you only then start seeing nuances in relationships, in shades - those fifty shades of any color, in vibrancy, in temperature, and in transparency.

Everything doesn't need to be harsh, full of contrast, jarring in order to make an impact. Most of the time, the beauty lies in the subtle mixes of colors, and even more so in their transparent layers. An opaque layer covers all your tracks, all your moods of yesterday. While semi-opaque or translucent layers are able to neutralize if too much has been said, or add a little accent of focus.

All my life I've been searching for only the deepest relationships. It's all or nothing. You're not making it onto my friend list if we can't have the most intimate conversations. Mere acquaintances would stay by the wayside, as that's just what they were. I dismissed so many wonderful people because of this all or nothing approach. In reality, however, one can gain so much from even the smallest encounter with a stranger, or a mentor/student relationship, developing both ways. So much can be learnt from an inconsequential family visit, or a cocktail party conversation. Everything happens for a reason, and if you're only after the most idealistic statements, you miss the nuances, the everyday messages of life. I love this new bare essentials approach.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stop projecting yourself onto others!

Last semester has been quite difficult. I kept seeing lack of progress in my students, instead noticing their repetitive mistakes. It seemed to me that some get stuck in certain areas at the expense of the whole painting. Others use way too many colors. Yet another bunch never has enough time, and most don't trust in their creativity and inner voice. These problems kept me up at night and made me rethink time and again why I'm bothering to teach at all if I see no progress in my pupils.

It's when I started this painting, which differs greatly from my typical way of thinking, when all these issues hit me all at once like a ton of bricks. As I typically paint from life, and with this endeavor I was attempting to unblock my dream painting practice, I was facing a myriad of problems all at once. How do I bring out images from within, somehow convincingly connect them, and trust myself while doing it? I had to choose colors randomly, knowing they will have a different feel when placed next to other colors. I had to properly employ perspective, and hold a palette knife just so to achieve lines of desired thickness. I had to fight with contrasts, toning and vibrancy of almost every stroke. Throughout this turmoil, my own words of encouragement kept coming back to me.

I then suddenly realized that every single problem with which I struggled was an exact flaw that I saw in others' works. Essentially, I was projecting my own fears and insecurities onto my students.

Hearing this teaching voice with its practical suggestions made it come back full circle. What I need is to experience all these problems in order to be able to teach them. I need to learn to trust my inner voice as I'm teaching. Finally, I need to go through the quest of teaching to guide my own road to painting.

This semester started on this high note! :)