water media madness

 I was terribly, and pleasantly, surprised to find that THIS is what it looks like when you use water media on fabric. I had tried it before with some small pieces, but it works really well on a larger scale, too, and can be built up to a decent opacity. 

I was originally going to hang these on our closet doors at home, kind of a his'n'hers sort of thing, but the doors seem to be made of diamond and cannot be pierced by the pointy things of man. So they live on my desk. 

Up top is some beast boy creepiness, complete with blood and pointy claw fingers. And a hair bow. I used Mod Podge to seal the fabric on this one, and I'm not sure if it was that or if it was just not stretched properly, and so the fabric buckled slightly. It didn't effect the outcome, really, but was not as pleasant to paint on. This is primarily gouache, tinted with watercolor.

Below is some fashionable witchiness. This one was created using gouache and watercolor as well as India ink, acrylic paint and gel pen. REMEMBER GEL PENS??? I bought some bright pink gel pens a while ago on a whim because they transported me back to seventh grade, where the cool thing to do was to scrawl all over yourself and your friends with smeary opaque ink. They made the finer pink branches near the bottom, and were fun to use. 

So, they're not oils. Nothing is oils. But they were fun to make, and I got to play with lots of interesting ways to combine colors and materials. The only thing about this, which I discovered the last time I tried this, was that because of the primed surface, the paints will wipe right off if they get wet, so I might want to spray seal these sometime. Although, during the painting process, this feature actually came in handy as it served as an "eraser" of sorts. 

I really like bright pink and I need to use more of it. I've also found I really like designing costumes and painting fantastical clothing, and will be continuing this trend.

mini paintings for mini spaces

 So I moved! But that means that I have neither the space nor the ventilation to make oil paintings. It would be nice to be able to do larger-scale oils, but I can always take the train back up to Mom's and work if I feel so inclined. In the meantime, I can work on tiny little guys like these.

These are created using watercolor and gouache, which works out beautifully on the fabric. The fabric is mounted onto little embroidery hoops that I found at a craft store (SO much cheaper and cuter than round canvas stretchers). The ovals are 5 X 3.5 inches, and the circles have a 3 inch diameter. 

So very tiny. 

The ovals feature some kind of slightly mutated hoodie, now a bit frillier and more overtly feminine, and a mysterious wooded area. Maybe this is my subconscious interpretation of moving and going into the unknown. 

The circles were a little trickier (you know how I feel about circles), and I was originally going to stick with the hoodie theme, but I went for animals instead. Owls and rabbits are some of my favorites, so here they are. 

 
That owl looks kind of confused, doesn't it?

Anyway, I don't normally paint or draw animals on their own, but these were fun. These pieces are mainly meant to be decorative, and I was mainly concentrating on making something cute that I would continue to enjoy looking at, and their small size means I can put them in weird little corners. 

The only issue? They need to have some kind of sealant, preferably a spray sealant, to protect the paint.  


adulthood and hurricanes

 So it's been a while. 

That is, as I have said, what having a full-time job will do to you. I'm actually working RIGHT NOW, thanks to being stranded at home by a hurricane. 

And I finally finished a big oil painting! Up top here is Sing Sing Kill, which is named for the stream that runs through town and empties into the river. "Sing Sing," like the prison, is the Anglicized version of the Iroquois name for the region, meaning "stone on stone," and "kill" is the Anglicized version of the Dutch word for stream. I pass where the stream empties into the river every day at the train station, and it's kind of a shady, dark little place tucked between the tracks (which go over the stream), a water treatment plant and some old warehouses. But it's still pretty and full of wildlife. This painting was inspired by the river and its ecosystems, which I see every day from the train. It's a weird and forgotten place, but very pretty in a decaying sort of way. It seems that paintings like this are the evolution of the Home body of work, which seems to be branching out into dreamier places. The painting was also a real bitch to photograph thanks to glare, awkward brushstrokes that messed up the lighting, and hurricanes.

Below is a watercolor. I was never really into drips, but this was a planned drip, so I'm okay with it. I tend to need to plan things completely  or they turn into formless disasters. Anyway, I'm calling it Double Shell Homunculus after the Homunculus Nebula

So, thanks to my impromptu vacation, maybe I'll get a chance to do some more painting. Yay! 

experiments in fabric

This is the newest in the larger-scale oil paintings I've been procrastinating working diligently on. This one is the largest, at 4 by 3 feet, and represents a few experiments. 

For one thing, it's painted on silk. Normally I work on printed cotton--stuff that I can find for fairly cheap at the local sewing supply store. I bought this piece at Mood Fabrics in the city and loved the pattern. Unfortunately, it's not smooth but has a sort of crinkled texture, which means that the painting has vertical lines running through it. Lesson learned: Buy untextured fabric. 

Silk, at least this silk, is also way more delicate than cotton, and so stretching it was kind of a pain because I was constantly afraid of tearing it, resulting in kind of a loose canvas. The texture also caused a it of a problem here because it allowed the fabric to stretch, but not quite evenly. 

This painting also features a collage in fabric. I had a bunch of oddly-shaped scraps lying around and thought to put them to good use. I think it turned out okay for a first attempt, though I think if I were to do this again I'd try to integrate them a little more into the composition. 

So as far as the painting itself is concerned, it's sort of a sequel to Big Wind, which I already think is positive in terms of its meaning, but this one is even more so. Look, renewable energy! And plump birds! Life is obviously good here. I was inspired to do something with wind turbines after looking at/reading about/writing about them so much for work, I decided I really liked them. They're so white and streamlined and smooth, so seemingly at odds with natural forms, and yet they manage to fit into natural settings so well. NIMBY might beg to differ with me on this, but I like them.

I've also noticed I'm becoming more atmospheric lately when it comes to skies. This isn't a great example, though, as I didn't want to cover up the fabric too much.  

(...also I don't like this new layout very much, Blogger. Why the small font so unreasonably small? Why are there enormous spaces between paragraphs?)

of wolves and foxes


I had some trouble classifying this painting (and I do so love to classify), because its attributes fall into both the Home and the Medieval categories of my painting. It's on fabric, and features the painting style that I usually use for the Home pictures, but the clothing and composition, as well as the inspiration, are more in keeping with the Medieval style.

The title, Ai Vis Lo Lop, is Old Provencal and translates to "I saw the wolf." It's also the title of a song, which was the inspiration for this piece. Here are the wolf and the fox, meeting under the tree. There's also a rabbit mentioned in the song, but I think they ate it. Fun fact: the term "seeing the wolf" was also a slang term for losing one's virginity. So take that as you will.

I had a lot of fun painting this one, and I'm very happy with how the faces came out in particular, and I tried to keep them as close to the sketch as possible. I really like using pink in faces. That's me on the left as a little black fox, and Beastie on the right as a gray wolf. This was also the first time since I was about six that I've drawn anybody with animal ears, and I was a bit apprehensive about it, especially after seeing all the furry/anthro/neko-neko-kawaii bullshit the Internet has to offer. I like them, though, and I was thinking of it in terms more of medieval-style pageantry than literal anthropomorphism.

storm country part 1


Finally an oil painting!

This is Big Wind, which is actually the title of a song by Myshkin's Ruby Warblers (but that is not, sadly, up on YouTube), but it seemed apt for this painting. It's oil and collage (dyed leaf skeletons) on fabric and is the first of a subseries within the Home series. This subseries, "Storm Country", is based on the Little Apocalypse monotype series, specifically on one print bearing the same name.

The idea is the decay of Americana, and the future of what was once the promised land. The three paintings star two exterminators, who I've been calling Sarah and Miranda without knowing which is which, who live in a blighted landscape of severe weather and the fossils of the homesteaders who went before them. Here's one of them taking daily meteorological measurements, gauging the day's weather. The thermometer/barometer set-up, the pinwheels, the sunflower and birdhouse are taken directly from the print. The whirligig, next to the pinwheels, is modeled on one I saw on Antiques Roadshow one time.

Appropriately, it is raining violently and occasionally hailing as I write this.

hoops







I very much like ovals. They're instantly decorative and pretty, and there's something charmingly old-fashioned about them. They make me think of cameos and lockets and old photographs. I think it's a lovely format. Oval stretchers and canvases, however, can be quite expensive and hard to stretch.

So instead of buying oval canvases, which cost $25 each, I decided to experiment and bought a package of six wooden embroidery hoops of the same size (6 by 12 in. diameter) for about $13 in total from Create For Less, which is a pretty cool crafting site. Many hoops are plastic these days, but they still make wood ones. Embroidery hoops are simple to use, and for painting I recommend tightening the screw with pliers to keep the fabric as taut as possible. Even with this extra tightening, though, expect the fabric to buckle slightly, especially after priming. There isn't really a way around it.

I originally only planned five of these oval paintings, though I do have an extra hoop kicking around, so I may do another in the future. These are made with scraps of fabric from other paintings and projects (like that dress I said I'd make like two years ago). Being small, they were rather painstaking, but they are easily portable and very lightweight--they can be hung on a tack.

I find the embroidery hoops to go well with the concepts I've been working with in the Home body of work--domesticity, tradition, and safety, as well as a nod to children's book illustrations. I also got to give each figure a carefully planned-out set of clothing and accessories.

From the top:
Father's Daughter was the first one I thought of, and is admittedly a bit hipster-ish. But I like it anyway. The deer refers to my dad again, but I think I'm beginning to separate deer into Dad deer and Me deer.

Next is Rabbit Eater, the only male in the bunch. So called because he's going to eat that rabbit. This is the same subject known in other works as "Beast Boy."

Of A Feather is a double self-portrait, and while it would be nice and simple to say that each figure represents a side of myself, that is not the case. Two aspects, maybe, but even then, that's not quite accurate. I think it's really just a nice tea party of narcissism.

Everything Must Someday Die features a cute little skullhead. I kind of picture her in the "goldengrove" of Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Spring & Fall" , except that instead of weeping for the passing of time and the concept of death, she's joyfully part of it.

Finally comes The Smell of Decay, with an exterminator, looking grim and destructive. As exterminators do.

I plan to hang these as a set--they look better together than alone. More big paintings coming soon!


a new home addition



Back from the madness that is the holiday season, I've finally completed some more large paintings. Also, my broken camera decided it was tired of being a drama queen and now works again. I hope this is foreshadowing of the rest of my encounters with technology--that if they break I can just ignore them for a while and they'll fix themselves without requiring effort or money on my part.

Actually, more than likely, my luck with technology has all been spent up and my next blog post will be scanned in at the public library after I had to write it on a typewriter.

So! Onto the artwork. The two seen here are additions to the Home collection, and are finally finished after much deliberation. On top we have The Storm Gatherers. This is one of the rare instances when I've made up an image to go with a title, rather than the other way around. The title comes from a Henry Darger piece, which is actually titled A Storm Gathers but, like I often do, I read it wrong and thought it said something cooler. The end result is this painting, 44 X 46 inches and about three thousand pounds of stand oil glazes. It features a theme I've been liking lately, which is an organized group of small girls, who seem unassuming but who are probably up to something nefarious, in this case, summoning a storm with the help of lightning rods, weather vanes and a barometer. A similar clutch of these girls can be seen in The Harvest. Most of the girls are based on photographs of me when I was little, and the outfits are actual clothes I've owned, namely ballet recital costumes and summer dresses. Stylistically, this painting echoes The Discovery of a False Moon in its glazy, open field-setting.

Then there is Outlands, whose bizarre size (8 X 18 inches) was dictated by the size of the fabric on which it is painted. This fabric was not purchased, but rather came from an old skirt of my mother's, so I didn't have the luxury of choosing a reasonable size. I wanted to do this painting for a long time, but couldn't find small enough stretchers until recently. Also, although I like the way it came out, I don't recommend painting on old fabric; it gets fuzzy and when gessoed (gesso'd?) the fuzziness ends up as stiff lumps and detail work is very difficult. There is also a hole in the fabric, which is hard to see but obviously not ideal, and overall the fabric is worn and not as structurally sound as new fabric. But I still like it. The figures are taken from photographs of my mother (in the white shirt, center) and some friends from her Brownie troop on a field trip in the early '60s. Like the ones used in the Huntington paintings, the photos are kind of weird and don't have a feeling of being in a specific place.

'tis the season for skullheads




In keeping with the season, I've decided to share some images of both the bounty and the desolation of autumn. Or something. Top: The Harvest, 40X42 in. Bottom, 10X10 in, untitled as of now. I've always liked the fall--I find it refreshing after the summer, like a new beginning, clearing away the old brush and the humidity of the past year. To say that these were made in the fall, though, would not be entirely accurate--the untitled one was made over the summer. I have four other 10X10 canvases that have, over the years, experienced many incarnations. The latest have been these, in the "medieval" style (note humpy black body-masses), with lots of stand oil. I work on these rather casually, usually when I'm done with a larger project and need something to do with excess paint (which is really expensive and so throwing it out is an option I try to avoid). The one you see here is the only one I consider to be complete.

The Harvest is the latest member of the Home family, done on patterned fabric with collage elements. I think it's most similar to The Homestead stylistically, and I've used the same photographs. Like The Homestead, the idea is an ending, or a transition from one phase to another, but the past remains present (in both senses of the word) in the physical features of the place. The mood, obviously, is slightly different; lately I've preferred larger groups of figures to just one. I've been interested in the idea of a cultish little group, something like these skullhoodies, a united force.

Plus they have cake.

hoodies & home




Long ago, like, sometime in July, I introduced the the hoodie as a staple of my painting symbolism. Here are some more of them. These, like The Protector, The Discovery of a False Moon, and the other paintings on patterned cloth, these three are part of a body of work I call the Home project, which I discussed in the same posting in which I discussed The Protector as being a study of origins, so to speak, exploring the symbols developed in childhood and how they inform life as an adult. The images concentrate on memory as a space, with the objects within that space taking on a symbolic existence, standing in for people, concepts and emotions. HINT: The hoodies are all me. I wear hoods a lot.

From the top:

The Homestead, oil and collage on patterned cotton. Featured here is a homey bird, a plump, goose-like fowl that symbolizes being at home and being content there. We also have more floating trees, which are less involved with symbolism and more a reflection of how I remember treed areas--I can visually recollect the canopies, but often the trunks get forgotten. Basically this is what it looks like in my head when I remember areas with trees. I'm not weird you're weird. Anyway, incorporated into the image are scans of nineteenth-century photographs. (The originals are mounted on a thick cardboard, and I didn't like the idea of using the originals anyway) The photographs came in an album as a gift, and I am completely unrelated to any of the sitters. The painting is about the concept of home, what makes a home and what happens to a home when it is left and its inhabitants forgotten.

The Reunion, oil and collage on patterned cotton. I still don't know how I feel about the name. Besides just being a hoodie, this one is a skullheaded hoodie, or a skullhoodie. I amuse myself. The general reaction, when I showed this, was "Oh, how cute, a little fawn--WHY DOES SHE HAVE A SKULL FACE THAT'S FRIGHTENING." Collage elements are silver leaves, bought on a whim from an art supply store. This is something of a companion piece to the painting below, and deals with the idea of reconnecting with the past version(s) of oneself as a result of introspection, or as a link to personal understanding.

The Bone Gatherer, oil on patterned cloth. Hoodies and deer again. This is kind of the precursor to The Reunion, about delving into, and at times confronting, one's past as a way to figure things out for the future. It's the same hoodie, too, although in The Reunion she seems to have lost her boots. I'm quite pleased with the way the birch trees came out--they have many a layer of white and purple-black glaze.

So basically, the Home project is something of an attempt to communicate to the outside world what it looks like in my head; these are, in a way, still shots of how I remember and imagine (and some combination thereof) things. I'm surprised, in a way, but also quite pleased, with the fact that I am finally able to create these images. There are more Home pieces in the works, though I've been shamefully remiss about my painting. This whole having-a-job thing really cuts into my painting time...

fabric & me




I've always liked patterned fabric. I have, currently, an overflowing grocery bag full of scraps of old clothes stuffed in the back of the terror-jungle that it my closet. I've made a few quilts with them, starting from the traditional patchwork squares to the one I'm currently "working" on (quotes signal that in this context, "working" means "leaving it sitting on my dresser for the past six months") is more of a landscape, complete with silver raindrops (old curtains left over from when my room was space-themed in middle school) and elephants. Anyway, that's not the point. The point is that I like patterned fabric because for me, it evokes memory, the way that old clothes and blankets do.

For a while, I was in the habit of painting very intricate patterns in the backgrounds of my paintings. You can see some of them in the Woods series that I discussed earlier. It was, to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass. So one day in the summer, I stretched and primed these three canvases--er, non-canvases. Huntingtons I and II are primed with clear gesso, which I don't recommend as it dries to a weird, sandy sort of texture that is difficult to work with, particularly on a small scale. It can also fog up the fabric itself. Croton Point is primed with acrylic gloss medium, which s nice and smooth and wonderful. (Note: If you choose to try this, be sure to coat the front and the back of the cloth several times with the priming medium, as fabric like this is much thinner and has a more open weave than canvas.) They are quite small, the largest of them being only a foot square.

Painting on fabric is really fun. For one thing, the painting surface becomes part of the image, and you can fade it in and out of the painted areas with a pretty nice effect. These are all based pretty literally on photographs. Huntington I (Shadows), top, and Huntington II (Starfields), center, are taken from photographs of my mother and aunt as kids with some of their younger cousins. They're weird photos, in that little square 1960s format, taken by kids in strong summer sunlight, lending them a strange and spontaneous sort of quality. Croton Point, at the bottom, is based on a photo taken by me, of my friend and his now-ex-girlfriend, about two years ago. The weird brown animals are my own invention. Fittingly, my mother brought me the fabric samples of the Huntingtons, and the green piece I bought at a vintage shop in New Paltz. These are the first paintings in which I dealt with memory as a place, and I took a fairly literal approach, using photographs, which are what people commonly use to preserve memory.