“You are the factory” were the words of my friend Berrisford a couple months ago. He said this I believe as a way of encouraging me to let go of my obsessive process and let some under-developed work live as finished pieces because I could always make more. It seems like obsessiveness is my primary drive lately in the studio so a devotion to it seems fitting. For whatever reason – and even as a kid – I believed that my dogged work ethic towards say school or my artwork would garner me some attention and a measure of security. To often though, great attention at one area of my life comes at a price in others, financial security, relationships. Ah, the life of an artist.
In the studio lately I’ve been focused on preparing 5 to 7 paintings for exhibition at the Bethlehem House Gallery for an October exhibition. Its an extremely daunting challenge made all the more difficult due to the inclusion of two drawing projects I’d like to include in that short 3 month time span. If I could devote myself fully to these tasks I wouldn’t worry, and it would in fact be thrilling to be intensely focused on these works, but of course there’s the challenge of work and other less savory obligations on my time that I have to fold into the mix. Of course the majority of artists face work/life challenges so my predicament is not unique, it’s no less frustrating for me because I feel incredibly inspired right now.
I’ve been working in two veins and I’m for the first time doing both very nearly simultaneously. One vein involves work on botanical/landscape and planet paintings which are mostly pallet knife pieces. The other as I said before are the drawings. Last week I finished the first of what I hope will be two hanging basket flower paintings I call “Timmy Porch Petunias”, so named due to my ex-boyfriends lovely hanging baskets on his apartment’s back porch.
Timmy Porch Petunias No. 1
This piece was a real challenge because I wanted to paint them as a night-scape and play with the orientation of the baskets, to give the work some drama. What made the work tricky for me was giving the dark spaces the depth one see in night. I wanted to give the viewer a sense that they were really looking into the void when peering into those spaces. I finally achieved a satisfactory state after laying down a half-dozen layers of oozie black purple and blue liquorice paint. By contrast painting the flowers proved relatively simple and kinda fun, slapping down pasty frosting globs of flower and leaf colors. Unfortunately none of my depth-of-field efforts are apparent in photos, damn photography! The other botanical landscape works I’m painting right now are inspired by the setting of my friends Tom and Mike’s wedding a few years back. They got married in the Allentown Rose Gardens at Cedar Beach Park. These pieces will become a memorial of that space because the gardens have since become infected by a horrible blight. Here’s where those works stand as of a couple days ago:
At Tom and Mike’s Wedding 1 and 2
I’ve also been working on a series of planet paintings. Right now I’m working on the third in a series of what I hope will be all 8 planets plus the sun and the moon. This third piece will be of Saturn and named “With Timely Pearls Sown, Darrell like Saturn Reaps”. I’ve titled the whole series “Friends Are My Solar System” as each planet is named for a friend whose traits I believe are similar either to the legend behind each planets name or their astronomical appearance. Here’s the secret painting phase of the Saturn painting:
With Timely Pearls Sown, Darrell like Saturn Reaps
This series is a real crazy endeavor because I promised myself that I would stop making large works because there so hard to sale and store, but I just couldn’t help myself. These works are 47 x 47 inches square. I blame my friend Tyrone for this series after he challenged me to do fantasy-science-fiction paintings. He’s still by-the-way unsatisfied with these paintings as he says terrestrial planets are too easy and familiar, and that I should be painting truly alien worlds, I’ll get to that later Tyrone! In and case, I finished the sun a few weeks back. That work was a beast due to the difficulty in trying to paint the luminosity of a star. I discovered that it’s not just about painting a lot of white, yellow and red paint but a surprising amount of gold, silver, purple and iridescent white to get that correct sparkle. Once again photos do the original no true justice – here’s what my iPhone was able to capture:
Michelle Smiles Brighter Than The Sun
While I’m working hard on these planet and flower/landscape works I am also making abstract drawings to keep that side of my creative mind active. I haven’t done one of these super-dense drawings in a couple years partially because I’m afraid of the sharpie markers and their lasting power. An artist I met at the Vermont Studio Center, Miguel Luciano, warned me a couple years back that sharpies have a tendency to fade with time. I’m just so use to the material I just can’t help going back to using them. I think I’ll just have to investigate spray coatings that can help preserve the surface that also won’t bleed. This new drawing series continues my penchant for using unusual titles, I call the series “Maelstrom Leviathan Abyssal Charming”. The series is named for a vision I had about a year or two ago of Neptune stirring up the high-seas and a whale galavanting in the surf and in the trenches. The drawings so far has allowed me to rediscover a love for creating complicated rich line pieces. Each have required me to separate in my mind the different layers in unique ways to balance the density color and overall composition. My goal is to try to evoke a sense of looking through rough waters and turbulent up-churned seas. The series is intended to be a “fiver” so hopefully by the end I’ll get a little closer to my original vision. Here’s the three drawings I’ve made so far from newest to oldest:
Maelstrom Leviathan Abyssal Charming No. 3
Maelstrom Leviathan Abyssal Charming No. 2
Maelstrom Leviathan Abyssal Charming No. 1
This week in the studio I found myself geeking out to Philip Glass. I got turned onto the composer from an ex of mine 4 exes ago. I have a long love affair with his opera “Akhenaten” and would love to see it at the Metropolitan Opera House this fall (hint hint for anyone out there with pull their). I looked into his other operas and found his first one “Einstein on the Beach” and listened to the whole 5 hours. The last I suppose aria was one of my favorites. It’s called “Spaceship” and here it is:
Okay for my next post I hope to discuss the inspiration behind my planet paintings a little more and my progress on my Jupiter and Saturn pieces. Until then do be well.