Tuesday, April 30, 2013

In My Studio: Thoughts on White Space

The Backyard (looking out and from above), 2013, Oil on Panel, 36 x 48 IN PROGRESS
In the last few months, I have been very preoccupied with this idea of using the white of the panel and how it can interact in a painting and if so how it can do that successfully.

I was always taught to quickly paint out and address any white space, and, if I am being completely honest, I usually encourage my students to do the same.  It is necessary in achieving a sort of dominance over the materials when you are a beginner feeling so hesitant.  

But what about now, when I feel I have a real ownership or at least understanding?  I make paintings that have always engaged the question of space.  I like to see how it can flatten and extend and condense.  In fact, I would say it is one of my main overarching obsessions in the construction of a painting.

Using the white of the primed ground is something I have always done in my drawings and so in recent months I have been trying to make paintings this way too.  In the most successful outcomes, the two areas marry and lock together like a puzzle almost.  It creates this push and pull of what is 'background' or behind that makes the art nerd in me positively giddy.  It also has been challenging me in a new way to make a painting that works.  

The drawing that kicked off this thinking...
One of the first paintings I did with this in mind...

A larger more recent painting
The right wheel and seat, things that should be most solid are made from saved up white ground

 I think I am most pleased by the piece at the top, it is my most recent large painting.  I did it completely from memory of our backyard both from looking out our third floor bedroom door and our living room window at that blue hour of night.  

Of course, since I felt I had finally got a good stab at this marriage of ground and paint, I promptly told myself I now needed to make a painting where the entire background was addressed and then smeared away.  It ended up being the weirdest painting I have ever made and I can't decide yet if it is horrible or I love it so I won't put it into the blogosphere to live for eternity.  But things are churning here in my little studio -- hope they are in yours too.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Sunday Pick: Eleanor Ray

Charlotte's Studio with Sheets, 2013, Oil on Panel, 4 x 4 15/16

House on Prospect Street, 2012, Oil on Panel, 3 7/8 x 4
March Windows, 2013, Oil on Panel, 4 x 5

Snowed In, 2012, Oil on Panel, 2 1/8 x 2 3/8

Tennis Court Parking Lot, 2011, Oil on Panel, 5 x 7

Icy Window, 2012, Oil on Panel, 5 x 3 15/16

This Sunday I present to you the work of Eleanor Ray.  These works pack a serious amount of good painting and psychological subject matter into a tiny surface.  They are delicate and quiet but deeply moving in their solitude.  Ray's work is a part of a group show which opened at Steven Harvey Fine Art Projects this past Wednesday appropriately titled doorroomwindow.  As busy as Eleanor must have been preparing for the show, she was kind enough to answer a few questions I sent her way.  Read on for her very thoughtful responses: 

You seem to really enjoy this idea of a frame in a frame.  Can you speak to this sense of peering into another space, or the importance of doors and windows in your work?

Windows and doorways organize so much of what we see, especially in cities. I enjoy watching a familiar view change over time in relation to the constant of the window. Often the things outside seem to relate to the window's shape, or the grid of its panes, in the way that the interior of a painting relates to its own edges. In paintings, windows and obscured views have a sense of frozen expectation -- of something forever about to happen, or about to be revealed.
The frame of a window or doorway takes on a clear relationship to the painting's flat surface. And it can have a figurative presence that remains anonymous but not totally impartial.

What draws you to your subject matter?  It seems like beyond and maybe even before the psychological aspect you search out certain abstract qualities in your compositions?

Painting a familiar place becomes easier for me when it appears unfamiliar, usually because I am seeing something more basic -- its abstract qualities -- rather than my particular associations with the place. I find that I can see places more clearly when I'm a bit removed from them -- if I'm returning after a long absence, for example, or if I'm simply seeing the place in a new kind of weather, out of the corner of my eye, or through a window. I often become more interested in painting the places I've lived after moving away from them. 

What has been your experience so far working and living in Brooklyn as a painter? 

I love it. This is a great place to be. 

Edit: This post was picked up by Painter's Table, many thanks to whomever submitted it: http://painters-table.com/link/aubrey-levinthal/eleanor-ray-interview

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Sunday Pick: Albert Irvin

Blackfriars VII, 2005, Monoprint

Blackfriars XVIII, 2005, Monoprint

Greenwich II, 1991, Monoprint

Marshalsea XIX, 2005, Monoprint
Thanks to a fruitful conversation I have been having with a new painting friend, whose work I assure you I will introduce here in coming weeks, the work of Albert Irvin was brought up.  I am particularly taken with his monoprints.  

I enjoy how saturated the color can feel while keeping it all within a certain tone.  It reminds me of the way things look right after the sun sets, when color is vibrant but dark.  Coincidentally or maybe this is the reason why I am interested in his work currently, I am attempting to make a big painting of that time of day.  An enormous challenge that is getting the best of me at the present moment-- hats off to these monoprints.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In the Studio: Henri Matisse

A stunning photograph from Matisse's studio.  See many more here.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Sunday Pick: Ying Li

Back Porch, 2010-11, Oil on Canvas 12 x 12

Ann's Maple, 2010, Oil on Canvas, 14 x 18

Darkening, 2011, Oil on Linen, 14 x 18

Elizabeth's Tree, 2007, Oil on Canvas, 20 x 20

Susan's Garden, 2005, Oil on Canvas, 24 x 24
Ying Li's paintings have had my eye for a long time.  A member of Zeuxis, a group of accomplished still life painters, and a regular exhibitor at Gross McCleaf Gallery, I have been fortunate enough to see her work in person a number of times.  Her paintings, combining thick impasto and abstract gesture, could run the risk of feeling indulgent, but they never do.  In person, the color is fresh and rich, and the depth of paint -- absolutely necessary.  Each piece is a real search for the right mark, and as a result, I find the final result completely engaging and staggeringly beautiful.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Painting and Titles

Fruit for Lou, 2013, 16.5 x 18, Oil on Panel

Here is a new painting of mine, done in the midst of an awful studio week.  Not a typical type awful studio experience you may be picturing, awful in that I was doing everything but painting required of a painter.  

Documenting work, applying to a show, applying to a few jobs, (which includes the dreaded updating aka complete re-writing of all materials)...you get the idea.  So I was glad to see that somehow I made something I am really excited about in the few hours I could free my mind.  Maybe the creative energy that was utterly dying inside came out my brush?

Anyways, I needed a title for the piece right around my breaking moment when thinking of one more word to describe myself, my work, anything, felt like a death sentence.  (I know this is all sounding a bit dramatic but it was, especially the moment my computer bit the dust with three more pages to print.)

  So I turned to Alex, who ironically works as an attorney defending people on death row and will not enjoy my reference above and did not find my predicament the least bit life-altering, and said "title this pleaseee!" 

Because I think titles are so important to get right.  Ideally, they operate just as the painting does, so for me I guess its some sort of poetic reference of the world and objects around me.  And right when I think, I don't care I'll just title it, I think what if Rosy-Fingered Dawn wasn't titled that way?  It can be such a missed opportunity. 

And Alex then casually pulled me out of my neurotic mental spiral downward with 'Fruit for Lou'? Lou is a nickname for our dog and there you go, it was personal and weird and seemingly normal but actually illogical and exactly like the painting.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sunday Pick: Sir William Gillies

I greatly enjoy the sensitivity Scottish painter Sir William Gillies(1898-1973) brought to his paintings.  I don't have much to say about them, I just like looking.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In the Studio: David Hockney

I love seeing artists in their studios.  This one of Hockney and his daschunds is too funny!  They all sort of have the same expression on their face. I want to start a series of posts of artists in their studios.  I doubt it will be weekly, but I feel like its something I love seeing so maybe you all will too.