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.  

photos of home

While rummaging around in an antique shop in Cold Spring, NY (which by the way has about 10,000 antique shops, but this was the only good one), I found a pile of old photographs going for 25 cents apiece. I bought 25 of them, and talked the woman down to $5 for the lot. Some of them are nice the way they are, and I think I'll just mount them on some nice paper, but some, like these, seemed to need some embellishment.

Here are three of the decorated ones. They are collaged mainly with tracing paper that has been colored with pencils, as well as cut paper, and I've used ink, lead pencil and pen as well. In order, they're called Garden, 1945, and Wonder. I did not label 1945; it came that way. Wonder is my favorite so far, as I feel it really captures what I think of when I think of 1950s America, full of youth and hope and earnestness, but with this undercurrent of fear and impending doom. Wonder is sort of a child's idea of war and widespread destruction as something far away, almost like a fairy tale, romanticized in movies and television and abated in the adult world by those romanticized accounts, and by the idea of being righteous and wholesome. While the kid is thinking about war, it's clear that that kid is still innocent to its realities, but the point is that the society prefers to think of war as a fantasy.

The photos are images of various families, like the people seen in the first and third photo here. I have a few of the woman in Garden, one of which had been hand colored. There are also a few that appear to be photos of someone's WWII combat tour, a mountain, random awkward snapshots of babies and girls and families, and a very faded and weird-feeling nineteenth century group portrait. I would guess that they range in time, excluding the one from the 1800s, from the 1920s through the early 1960s. The woman at the shop told me that most came from a particular estate, and that she knew some information about the woman whose estate it was. I like to think this woman is the woman seen in the first photo here, but there's no evidence for that.

They were someone's memories at one time, but their original meaning has been lost, I suppose. All that's left of what they used to be is the image itself, without further context; all we can understand about them is what we see, and of course what we bring to them, because we are lacking any other information. All you can do is look at them and react emotionally, since that's all you have. And that's what I did here, essentially. I attempted to capture visually the feeling that each photo gave me. Garden is a family blooming out of the snow (see the dog at the far right, just next to the woman's shoulder), 1945 is a summer after a conflict, and Wonder is a child's brightly-colored imaginings about the world at large.

I was also pleased at the preexisting hoodie these pictures gave me.


This is the first larger-scale oil painting I've completed in a while, thanks to things like working and being a semi-responsible semi-adult. But here it is, 34 X 40 inches, oil on canvas. Its name is Bloodgood. Why? I was watching an extremely stupid game show and the contestant's last name was Bloodgood (she was not smarter than a fifth grader, FYI), and I thought it was a good name--far better in fact, than this particular woman deserved--and this was the image that sprang to mind when I thought about it. Strange how things work out.

It's far more graphic than I usually work, which comes with its own set of difficulties, like keeping lines and color areas clean and clear and sharp, and using rulers to make sure lines are straight and match up properly. Creating the large background areas was also a challenge, as the color had to remain consistent. The pattern shapes were made using a stencil.

I'm happy with the result, and especially with the lollipop trees to the left, there. Usually, I have the image of the completed painting in my mind from the outset, and I work until I reach that image. Bloodgood was one of those paintings that worked out very easily, coming to its conclusion without much stress.

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...

in which we are introduced to hoodies and deer

Due to the fact that I have not yet installed a decent photo editing program onto my new computer, I can't upload the new photos of the newest (complete) paintings without their having a weird white space where I've cropped the pictures. So here is the latest of the old photos, a painting called The Protector. As we saw in The Discovery of a False Moon, there are some floating trees. Unlike some of the other symbols, I don't really know why I like the floating trees so much.

The figure on the left is a Hoodie. I started drawing these hooded silhouette girls about a year ago, and they are essentially symbols of myself--shorthand self-portraits, I guess. The deer-headed man is my dad, because I associate him with deer. Disney's Bambi was my favorite movie as a child, and Bambi's family structure basically mirrored my own at the time. Therefore my dad has antlers. I also was under the impression that Bambi started life as a girl and grew up to be male. Anyway, deer and hoodies, as well as some other symbols, show up later in the body of work that includes The Discovery of a False Moon, the Huntington paintings, and Croton Point, that is collectively called Home. The concept behind Home is memory and personal symbolism, or the way that children, and later adults, use specific images and objects to inform more nebulous aspects of their lives. For me, for example, deer with antlers are symbols of my father. Home is still in the works, with a few more paintings planned. I seem to have three veins in which I work: the Home style, sort of soft and faded, with dense patterning and natural settings, the medieval style that has broad areas of jewel tones, and a bright pink and glittery style that I haven't unveiled yet (mwahaha) that I'm calling the "trashy" style. There are similarities between the three modes, and the symbols found in Home appear in the others, and I think to an extent they each reflect an aspect of my person.

The Protector is oil and neo-megilp glaze (yes, that is really what it is called and I have no idea why). Neo megilp was called "atmosphere in a bottle" by a painting teacher of mine and she was quite right. It creates a soft, filmy glaze and it dries fast. I love stand oil, but the speed at which this stuff dries is amazing. The patterns on the figures were traced from a piece of wrapping paper.

So as soon as I can figure out/feel like getting the other pictures together, I'll put them up. Till then...