I surprised myself. At this time of the year I have always found it difficult to create anything in the studio but today I finished two paintings with a third already completed in a new series. Excavating, reducing, looking at the light.
Encaustic on banana silk paper on wood panel
At The River
Encaustic on banana silk paper on wood panel
Yesterday was a sad day. We lost Bootsie. She had been with me for over thirteen years. A rescue cat she was already six months old when we got her from the Humane Society. They had rescued her from a dumpster. From the very beginning she was a great studio companion and only once did she jump up in the paint. She seemed to know what was out-of-bounds from the very beginning.
Every week she came into the studio when my model arrived for a session and usually ended up on the model stand asleep. She liked Laura. She is the invisible presence in all the drawings and paintings I did in those sessions. I will miss her.
Last evening was the opening reception for studio tours at the Artisan Resource Center where I have my studio. I've had a studio at the Center for so many years; I'm not counting anymore. There are 23 studios and they vary from fine art to film production. The energy at ARC is always positive and there are many collaborations that go on all the time. A huge building, I always feel as if the studio is my private retreat.
This year Kennesaw University art students have a juried painting exhibition in the halls and I didn't count, but there are so many interesting works to see. Since we have very wide long hallways there is plenty of room to see the art and enjoy. I like seeing art in the halls.
Last evening we had a steady flow of visitors stroll thru my studio and I am always amazed at the interest and questions I get. I have a chance to talk to people in depth about the work I'm doing and many times they "get it". I can't count the number of people who connected with the abstract landscapes I'm working on now. Since I'm so sequestered most of the time (except at exhibits of course) I rarely have the opportunity to go into depth about what I am doing. I find I love talking to people at these events and yet all week while I'm in my studio working I do not like talking. Music on and I'm working.
My work is going well and I'll be posting more info about my solo exhibit at dk Gallery which is scheduled to open on January 6, 2012. I have three more large paintings to finish over this holiday month. The hardest time of the year to work yet the work is so compelling to me it should be no problem to finish the last paintings I want to show.
Just got the copy of the new book "2011 Christmas with Southern Living". Aha, my painting is featured above the mantle on pages 64 and 65. They did a great job incorporating the painting with the decor. My three dancers became angels. I like that.
The reception at Georgia Perimeter College was just perfect. The work was installed beautifully and well lit. Thanks again to Don Dougan, the gallery director. I truly appreciated the lighting since encaustic paintings must have the right lighting much like glazed oil paintings...well that's certainly true of any artwork. My good friend Jim Gibson took some photos and video and I haven't seen those yet but thanks to Angie Dachs, I'm posting a few photos to to give a flavor of a stellar evening. Fun for me was the fact that one of my good friends from high school along with her husband made it to the show as well as two of my friends from college. So great that they made the trip to Atlanta to see this exhibit. So many of my colleagues from the Women's Caucus for Art of Georgia also attended; they are so supportive. Old friends, new friends, I am so lucky.
I had the opportunity to speak about the exhibit to one of the 2-D classes at GPC and found it rewarding to discuss the work with them as well as everyone there. Although I do like for the work to speak for itself I appreciate the opportunity to elaborate on the process of art making and particularly what precipitated this series of paintings and how I see myself going forward.
Ah going forward....I'm taking the weekend off to the spend with friends and will be ready next week to continue this series with renewed energy.
Knowing that my exhibit finally opens on Wednesday, I now have jitters. Nothing new to the process I always have stage fright but how to keep focused is a bit of a conundrum. Lucky for me I had two large oil paintings to complete...ah...oil paint. It is so much fun to paint on canvas once in a while. Canvas is a lovely active surface to work on and oil paint is so, well, it's oil paint. The lovely aroma cast it's spell on me a very long time ago. I can still remember walking upstairs to the painting studio at ACNNJ and knowing I was home before I opened the first tube of paint. It was probably the solvent that came first. Yes it's a bit weird to love that aroma, to some "that smell", but there you are.... painting is in my being. This week I have been treated to that odor and have loved coming into the studio in the morning. I have also like working so quickly and fluently which is a little harder when working with encaustic though I'm beginning to work more intuitively with every new encaustic painting.
The paintings are now finished and I have to clean up. This part of the process, ugh. With encaustic there is so little cleaning to be done. I truly love that. I did have to tell myself "stop, stop, stop", enough with the layers. But I listened and now all I have to do is take them off the stretchers, roll them up, and send them on their way. As for the studio, I'm resetting everything, making medium and paint and after a brief but wonderful weekend out of town with friends, I'll be ready to begin again.
On my journey I am exploring images from many vantage points. One of those points is to look to at a source that continues as a theme in my drawings, the figure. The figure as a way of expressing ideas that are not quite ideas. I'm not trying to understand, to give meaning, just draw, find something that is familiar to me from making so many images for so many years. Not just familiar but maybe something that is revealing. A revelation, what a concept. Is there a transition coming or am I just going deeper? Questions are more important that the answers. I'm looking to find the open passage now.
More appropriately I should say back to the drawing wall. There is no doubt that the "after the exhibit blues" is a reality. Because the "Shifting Landscapes" reception will not be until August 31, the malaise has set in and will reverse at an unknown time. I would love to know how many other artists have the same letdown. I know it's coming, I prepare, I acknowledge....nothing derails its little insidious onset. Happens every time. I wander around aimlessly for days or weeks at a time. I don't think of it as an "artist block" because I do continue to work in some capacity.
So what to do.
1. write in my journal
2. look at sketchbooks, oh let's go way back, years
3. read fiction, nonfiction, art books whatever
4. draw on the wall
The most effective of these diversions is drawing. It is a powerful way to work my way back to painting and there are many drawings I will like enough to show them. Most images will never see the outside of the studio. It can get a little dark in the studio at times like this.
Time to chase the critics, most of whom are residing in my head. Eventually they will all be asked to leave in an orderly fashion. Let the mayhem begin.
The drawing is "All the Little Creatures". I know them all.
When I have time off from the studio, from the actual creation of images, I find myself immersed in art in a different way studying the art of the artists that I admire. Today has been a day to study Alice Neel. Neel was an artist with work worthy of study. How can you not be mesmerized by her line, her brushwork...I am totally in awe, this woman of the early twentieth century, born in 1900, who can teach so much. I'll be moving my home soon and this process always brings up memories of past series of paintings, in this case it is the figure work that I did before the last momentus (to me) move that spawned a series of the best figure paintings that I have done. Moving is always stimulating to me almost always a good series of paintings ensue. I love to start over to stretch. The painting here is titled of course "Moving". Behind the figure are all the moving boxes as yet to be unpacked.
Not to intimate in any way that my paintings have a relationship to Neel's work but I feel a connection, be it just the fact that I was working freely after my move and certainly with no restrictions. When I look at the current series of paintings to be exhibited, I must say I feel almost disconnected from the past. The exhibit of the figures at Lynne Farris' Gallery was a gift, a cohesive body of work that said something about me though I still wouldn't hazard a guess what that is. I ask myself am I the same person, the same artist. I have passed into another world, another territory and looking back very briefly gives me a perspective. I'm not much for hanging on to the past. In fact, I am nortorious for ridding myself of any incumbrances. I am a minimalist at saving when it comes to things including artwork. But I do save images and occasionally a glance back is worth it.
I liked what Alice's son said about her, "She teaches you to never give up".
The paintings are hung at GPC (Georgia Perimeter College, Clarkston Campus, Fine Arts Gallery) with the expert assistance of gallery director, Don Dougan. I was so glad to move the 37 paintings out of my studio. Once they are out no more changes to be made. Thank goodness. I think I begin to question each image if I look at them too long and this series of paintings was accomplished during a five month period remarkable to me since there were side trips taken during this time as well, paintings that were entirely unrelated. That was in fact good because any break gave me a chance to come back to the series and work with renewed energy and a slightly different eye so neccesary for remaining fresh. I always learn something from an unrelated image whether it be a drawing, print or painting of mine or sometimes even an artwork that is accomplished by one of my students.
Today is a day off. I have such a hard time taking time off from the studio, call me obsessive, type A...both apply I am sure and I consider it a plus except when I need to stop, renew. It's hard to know at first when it's time but yesterday told me stop! I was barely able to converse, to think clearly...The good stress had the upperhand. True of any creative you must leave time for the gestation of new images. It will take a day or two before I am truly able to relax.
So here is the painting that is my focus right now while I relax. I will not visualize it directly but let it simmer beneath the surface. When I return to the studio in a few days I will begin to draw again on my new big white wall and begin to comb through the photographs that have been awaiting my attention, no expectations just draw and look and luxuriate in the power of images.,
When I came into the studio this morning I had many thoughts rumbling in my brain. One of course as the result of seeing the three new paintings waiting completion. It all has to do with color. Color is very significant right now. Too much makes me crazy and not enough doesn't seem to work. So how much is enough? It's alarms me to see anything too "colorful" as that does not work in my eye with the story that I am telling. The line is everything right now; it's fast, confidant, moving. Yet there is the blue, yellow staring at me, taunting me. I am trying to let go but that's the hard part.
Then there is the music and the words. Music was so important to this series of paintings. It set the tone for the swiftness of drawing and painting leaving little time for reflection until it was too late and the India ink was dry and permanent. I can hear the music even when it's not playing carrying around like a third hand.
"Now I Become Myself" a poem written by May Sarton and one that tells the tale since the spring this year. "Now I become myself.....Now to stand still, to be here, feel my own weight and density." I am glad that there are those who are so articulate. They can speak for me in words since I have only images.
As I count down to my exhibit at Georgia Perimeter College, I've slowed down today to take stock of the images I've created. I have another three paintings started and can't wait to start but have to wait for gesso to dry before I add the next layers. While contemplating these paintings I realize what a journey it has been since I started in the spring. To put together a themed exhibit is a challenge and what happened as I started surprised me.
The work that I thought I was continuing did not continue and something new and miraculous happened. An entirely new series emerged. Now that would be great except for the fact that the previous series has images that are not entirely related or not related in the way that I would like. So what happens, I have to created more paintings than I thought I would.
Now part of that equation is that I love the new images so much that I want to continue with this theme. They are just the right amount of abstraction married to the decipherable to make me excited with the process. Though I titled my show "Shifting Landscapes", I could have easily titled it "Memory Trance" for that what if feels like to make these paintings.
The image pictured here is "Simultaneity" which sums up the series very well. A large painting 30 x 72 inches. More new work on my website http://www.helenderamus.com .
Too long since I last posted but hey I've been busy. Working in the studio is not easy right now as everyone must know our weather here in the south is ghastly. I say that and truly this year I have just accepted the fact that it is hot and will be hot till sometime in the fall. I have been not comfortable but at least keeping myself in the moment of painting with the goal of finishing the paintings for my solo show at Georgia Perimeter College (Clarkston campus) in the Fine Art Building. The show officially opens on August 15th with the reception set on August 31st.
"Shifting Landscapes" is my chosen title with the inspiration coming from three sources: my Hambidge Residency, the music of John Adams and Lucas Samaras, and the poetry of Mary Oliver. What a line up! The series took on a life of its own when I completed fifteen large drawings that I found compelling. The series then began a quest to transfer the essence of those drawings to encaustic. The trip to encaustic was not a trip that I could have predicted and has led to a series of unexpected images that I'm not sure I totally understand yet. The pure abstraction that I am seeking is only partly realized. The more non-objective they become the happier and more questioning I become. There is no doubt that I am reaching for a deeper understanding of what this painting life is all about.
Ah summer. There is no easy way to explain the heat generated by all the various heating implements used when painting with encaustic. Suffice it to say, it gets hot in the studio. The answer of course is start early and leave early; my new motto as I paint for my upcoming solo exhibit. Have to keep working or I'll never make the August deadline.
Work is going well. I will never understand why my most creative, productive time occurs in the summer. I don't like the heat and the light is so harsh. Not much to recommend the summer in the South in my book. But I look at it this way. During the cool of the winter I gather ideas, photos, drawings and boom when it gets hot the ideas flow into the paintings. Sounds like a simple answer to me.
The new work is exciting to me. And here is a photo of one of the new paintings in the series.
This week I successfully finished three small encaustic paintings with the "feel" I was looking for to translate my mountain experience at Hambidge into encaustic. I have been so in love with my drawings completed during my residency, that it took me two weeks to get back to my usual practice. To say it was a challenge doesn't even begin to explain how hard it has been. Part of the difficulty is the encaustic technique itself. There is a certain amount of preplanning necessary for the images I'm working on and the drawings from which they are inspired were so intuitively and freely created. Of course, as many artists have said before you are never the same artist or person, for that matter, yesterday as you are today. Never was that so true as with the project.
I'm now looking at the solo exhibit in August and the pressure is on to produce more paintings. Although I won't call it pressure because I love having deadlines. There are many times when I need focus for my wandering creative spirit which like to experiment ad infinitum. So here begins my process of deciding size etc. for a twenty or more painting exhibit. Not that many weeks left!
June 18 & 19, Saturday and Sunday are the dates for the summer workshop in encaustic. Visit my website for details. What happens after a residency is a burst of creative thoughts that lead to new ideas that I will share in this workshop. Encaustic is, may I say, an elastic medium.
It is now time to reflect on the past three weeks. Two of those weeks were spent at a Hambidge residency. This was a remarkable experience that allowed me to work in complete solitude and rediscover myself as an artist. There are many circumstances over the past five years that came between me and my art self and those issues were part of living and were unavoidable but I didn't realize until I had so many hours to draw, meditate, journal and read what cost was necessary to perform the tasks that were required of me.
So here I am happy as can be ready to start a new era in my artwork. Returning to "normal" life is not so easy but the transition is working itself out now. I have incorporated many lessons I learned during the residency to my own studio and my own practice here in the studio. I will continue to assess the rewards received in the coming months.
Above is a drawings 30 x 110 inches titled "Sequence", part of my drawing experience.
It's remarkable to think that I am packed and ready to make my trip to Hambidge for my residency which begins tomorrow at noon. Since before Christmas, when I received my acceptance, I have thought about what I want to do while there for two glorious weeks. This past week I began the process of putting together my supplies and the answer was very clear. I want to draw, to work on paper, to freely work on projects as they create themselves through me.
My decision not to work in encaustic was an easy one because I need time and space to renew myself with my art, to once again get acquainted with myself. If this sounds like a lot of "me me me"...I think it is. There comes a point in a career where you feel you may have lost a little of what you are. Maybe it doesn't happen to everyone but I think that renewal is often the answer when the work starts to come more slowly to feel not so exciting..or relevant.
So in my car trunk is a wonderful assortment of beautiful drawing papers, all imaginable mark making tools and mediums...charcoal, lith crayon, India ink and so much more. I have even thought that I might use some smaller pieces of paper for beginning an artist's book, a project that I've had on my mind for quite some time.
I started reading Twyla Tharps book on creativity and have included in my working tools some of my favorite books of poetry: Mary Oliver, Frerico Lorca, T.S. Eliot...The new memoir by Joyce Carole Oates, and the lovely Louise Bourgeois, Drawings and Observations. The Bourgeois book is always at my side. The Deep Song...resonating with me now.
No cellphone or internet to disrupt my days of musing and drawing. Now, how wonderful is that.
This past weekend the "Romance of the Figure and Nude" Exhibit opened, to a crowd I might add. It was horrible weather but nothing stops the dk Gallery collectors and admirers from attending an opening night. New artists were introduced and I loved having my new figure encaustics included in the exhibit. Check out the Marietta Patch for an article "Marietta Square Art Gallery Boon to Local Artists" about the gallery and about me too. Deronte Smith wrote the piece. Though note that my husband's name is Lyn, Charlie is my stepson...both are musicians however. Stop by the gallery while this show is up. Good show.
Important information I heard straight from Griffith Art Gallery today about how the painting in the Christmas book occured. Rick and Dave Griffith work with Southern Living magazine often and it was their choice to bring the painting to the attention of the staff for the photo shoot. They carefully wrapped the painting for its journey to the photo shoot and made sure that it was then returned to the gallery in good shape. I would never worry about any painting that was transported with their care.
I am one lucky artist to have the professional support of Griffith Art Gallery. For so many years now I can count on their creative efforts to sell my work. And I can just plain count on them...and their wonderful sense of humor that keeps me smiling while I work.
On Tuesday I took a trip to Cartersville, Georgia, not far from my studio in Marietta. It was my first visit to the Booth Museum. It's a very interesting museum filled with Western art and artifacts. The building itself is striking and the interior is modern and well appointed. One of the chief reasons for the visit was the Ansel Adams photography exhibit. I truly spent almost two hours looking and just taking in the beauty of so many black & white photographs made by the master himself. I think the last time I saw so many of his photographs was on a visit to Carmel before he died. It was also confirmed that AA dried his test strips in a microwave...I saw him do it in the video presentation.
It's hard to explain just how much I am in awe of those stunning photos. One reason of course is that I learned his method of making photographs and processing the film at the Southeastern Center for the Photographic Arts in Atlanta (Neil Chaput et al). My fondest memory of that time was spent in Brevard, North Carolina learning to use a 4 x 5 camera in the rain, hauling my big camera and Majestic tripod around and having Buck Mills as my mentor...I was his only student for the workshop, lucky me.
I do miss the darkroom, the beautiful B&W papers, even the chemicals. There is certainly nothing like that experience now with digital photography even though I enjoy it for its ease of use.
My second reason for visiting the Booth was my presentation and demonstration to the Booth Museum Artists Guild. It was a very positive experience as the group was a good size for a more relaxed discussion and lots of questions and answers.
I must go back for another visit when I can go earlier and stay in the galleries longer. I only scratched the surface.