Body of Work, New Art

Memory-Jogs and the Year-End Review

Even though I’m not so much a looking backwards individual as I am a looking forward one, I do find a review of the previous year fundamental to goal-setting for the year to come. So for a start, I’ve assembled this slide show of some of my 2017 work.

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Some of these works are still in my studio, but many of them have found themselves in new homes where I hope they provide lasting pleasure. The memory jog was fun for me. The images of work created months ago remind me of how rewarding it is to create something that never existed before, and to pass it along to someone who will find meaning in it for years to come. I appreciate immensely the connections that art makes possible.

Besides a visual review of 2017, I also did a written one. I won’t bore you with details, but I’ll share a few of the highlights, some of which didn’t seem significant until seen from the vantage point of 2018.

  1. Cleared out, renovated and set up the workshop
  2. Began creating assemblages (made possible by #1)
  3. Created 36 works (22 paintings and 14 assemblages).
  4. Accepted into four juried shows

Now, looking forward to the broad expanse of 2018 (doesn’t the year ahead seem big and forever?), yes, I have goals, like creating 40 works, adding the 3D work to my website and increasing my email list of art lovers. But one of my most daunting goals is to focus on consistency of expression, to better establish my style and unique voice–challenges many artists encounter! I’m envious of those who make it look so easy.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you for your encouragement and moral support this past year. It means the world to me, no matter what form it took, whether you gave a social media thumbs up, volunteered your help, joined my patronage program, attended an exhibit, subscribed to my newsletter, read a blog post, shared an event or purchased a piece of art, be assured that I notice and feel your kindness and friendship.

A happy, healthy, and blessed 2018 to all of you.

Join me on Facebook and Instagram for behind-the-scenes peeks and first postings of new work.

All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2017 Laura Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Uncategorized

Spreadsheets and The Artist’s Life

The process of making art occupies considerable space in the stewardship of my time and energy. Not surprised, right? Isn’t that what artists do? Indeed it is. But if you imagine a day in the studio is always about me getting all starry-eyed while making the next idea tangible, I gotta pop that bubble. Yes, I do get into the zone, that right-brained flow when my sense of time stalls and nothing else matters and it’s all about the pleasure of creating. I do love that! But today I want to share with you another side of my art practice, the left-brained part that’s totally disassociated with making paintings or objects. Here’s where I trade the beret for a pocket protector.

I make spreadsheets. Spreadsheets? Really? Yes. Here’s why.

Every work of art that is going to see the light of day, that I deem good enough to make public, must be documented. Each work has an inventory number, title, and several descriptors. Knowing which pieces are off-site, like at galleries and exhibits is crucial info as well. Oh, and some pieces may have been accepted into upcoming shows. If the show is weeks or months out, those works need to be reserved. Some works are on layaway. Can’t sell those out from under the patron who has committed to making payments. It gets complicated, but my spreadsheet helps.

Spreadsheets are also indispensable for establishing prices. I use a formula of size (square inches or volume) multiplied by rate plus cost of materials plus gallery commission, if applicable. Now, to make that more interesting (or not—are you still with me?), the formula for works on canvas differs from the formula for works on paper, which differs from the one for three-dimensional art. That calls for another spreadsheet. Are we making any art yet?

Our digital world presents the expectation that just about everyone, artists included, accept credit cards. Having a service and the necessary devices to make transactions digitally requires another non-art activity: entering inventory numbers, titles, images and prices into the online database. I’ve found the art buyer’s experience is enhanced at checkout if my items are all listed, and with a swipe or the reading of a chip, it’s done. The service delivers a professional, descriptive email receipt directly to my patron.

Sharing my art gives joy to me and to the art buyer as well. Reaching the state of that particular joy requires another non-art activity–marketing. That includes gathering email addresses from interested folks, sharing images on social media, developing newsletters, and producing invitations for email, print and social media. Toss in writing blog content for good measure.

You can guess that all of this requires a time commitment. Yes, it does. But this might come as a surprise to you. I actually don’t mind the non-art tasks. I realize they are integral to making my art practice run as smoothly as possible. Having a system in place clears my head of minutiae, allowing me to plunge into an art-making session with gusto! Which is what I’m going to do next. Excuse me while I get into the zone. Have you seen my beret?

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Body of Work

Common Threads

Artists are by nature experimenters, some more than others. I think I fall into the middle to high end of that continuum. I can be pretty happy creating work in a particular medium for a while as I push its limits. (Actually, it’s probably my own limits I’m pushing.) Then it’s time to shake loose a bit.

I’ve noticed this pattern for a while. For example, I’ve worked with acrylics and mixed media since early 2016 after a couple years using watercolor, collage and stamping. The need to create larger work led me there. But I recently fell prey to the lure of three-dimensional work, and have taken a break from canvases to see where that leads me. (I’ll be back to canvases soon!) I haven’t abandoned one type of work for another, but simply enriched the journey with new tools, a bigger vocabulary, and the challenge of learning new skills.

Now in reflection, I look for threads that connect the seemingly disparate types of work. Below are some examples of shared processes, images, or obsessions that link the body of work.

Here’s a detail from a watercolor/mixed media piece (left) called Woman at the Window (2015) next to a detail (right) from Covered/Uncovered (2017), an acrylic painting. Two years separate the works, but the same passion for texture and pattern appears in both. Spirals and splatters? I can’t help it!

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Weathered, corroded surfaces attract me. The first image below (left) is a detail from Mesa Whirlwinds (2016), an acrylic/mixed media painting. I paired it with Half Memories (2017), a found objects assemblage I just finished in July. Although starkly different at first glance, they share my attempts at making surfaces compelling and complex.

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Comfort and Joy (2015), a watercolor/mixed media piece (left), couldn’t be more different from Doves in Mourning (2017), acrylics/mixed media (center), and Half Memories (2017). Oh, not so fast. What about the splatters in the first two? And do you see the dot pattern in all three?

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I could go back even farther, to my banners and wall hangings of the ‘70s, and my cut paper illustrations of the ‘80s. It’s a bit of a relief to see the common threads. The challenge is to avoid using them as defaults, to stay original, and to keep exploring!

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About the Painting

Four Things to Look for in My Paintings

The seed for this post was planted recently at a group show where my work was exhibited. I was having a pleasant conversation with an attendee, a woman who seemed to be enjoying her time in the gallery. She wanted to know which paintings were mine, and as we strolled around talking about various works, I began to point out several features, especially those that recurred. As our conversation closed, she thanked me in such a genuine way for increasing her appreciation of my work.

Later reflecting on the conversation, I realized that what is obvious to me can be hidden to the typical art lover. So what do I want people to look for in my work? This is a bit challenging, as so much of what I do is intuitive, but I’ll give it a try. Here are the features I’ve identified as being a part of almost every work I create, and how you might approach it.

Texture

Look for the tactile qualities of the work. Is it bumpy or gritty or fine? Smooth passages next to rough ones? Does the texture sit on the top layer of the painting, or at the very bottom? Does paint skip over the valleys and hit the ridges? Do raised lines define elements in the painting? Is there a passage of paint that looks corroded or worn? Do you want to touch the art? (Go ahead; I don’t mind.)

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Detail from Moon Over Canyon

 

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Detail from Deep Water

Pattern

I am drawn to all kinds of visual rhythm. As we respond to the beat in music, tapping our toes or bobbing our heads, so we can respond to the beat of the painting. Find something that is repeated. Do you notice a linear texture, or a swirl of concentric arcs, or a row of trees on the horizon? Is there a pattern of raised dots forming arcs or squares or lines? Is there an allover pattern, or is it random? What does the beat say to you? Straight lines are calm and serene; squares symbolize strength and stability; diagonals connote action; arcs and circles and spirals speak of energy.

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Detail from Dove in Mourning

 

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Detail from Prevailing Winds

Color

I’m willing to try any color or combination that advances the narrative I have in mind or the emotions I want to evoke. Consider how various colors make you feel. Do oranges and reds excite you? Do blues and greens give a sense of serenity? Do neutrals like white, ecru and tan make you feel quiet and calm? Do the colors tell a story, from reds and oranges in one part of the painting, to blues and purples in another section? Do the colors sing with each other in harmony or dissonance?

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Detail from Elements of Time

 

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Detail from Crosswise

Surprise

If you look closely, I’ll reward you with a small surprise, a little like an Easter egg behind the wildflowers. Are those linear elements made of vintage maps? Are there little gold or silver “pearls” tucked into a crevice of the texture? Does a shiny metallic pattern contrast with a softer earthy background? Viewing the painting from across the room is one experience. Engaging closely deepens it.

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Detail from Elements of Time

 

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Detail from My Jupiter

There are art professors, docents, curators, and art historians more qualified than I to teach art appreciation. This is just my attempt to help you enjoy what arises out of my artistic vision. Even though I had something in mind when I created the painting, please don’t be afraid to insert your own narrative. It’s your response that completes the work.

 

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Inspiration for Making Art

Junk, Castoffs, and Redemption

Painting is a passion for me. So many ideas present themselves, begging to be rendered on canvas. Really, there’s not enough time, canvas, or paint to get them all down. Even so, a break every now and then is a healthy thing. I’m doing that by taking on some personal work and experimenting with some new-to-me media in the process. I’ve set aside works on canvas for a bit and turned my attention to junk. Oh, excuse me. I mean “found objects.” You know. Junk.

The catalyst for delving into this new territory was the recent transformation of what had been a storage space and is now a workshop—my “she-shop.” During the clearing-out process, I discovered a treasure trove of materials. Many of them would be familiar to woodworkers, but I saw art supplies.

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Some items I rediscovered, like rusty metal parts that may have originated from the farm where I spent my childhood. Corrosion, strange shapes, and mysterious tools! What’s not to love! The battered wooden box that held them is waiting for its turn in the spotlight. Its lid, broken and mellowed by time, is already taking on a new life.

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There’s been a quite positive side effect to this recess from painting, by the way. I’ve scavenged the closets, kitchen drawers, and hidden crannies for all the doodads that have little purpose anymore except to be tossed–or turned into art. But I think there’s something deeper here. Something spiritual and redemptive happens when castoffs take on new purpose—or live out a purpose that might have been missed.They just need the opportunity to be what they will be.

Making art is good for the soul. So is cleaning out your junk. Making art from junk? I can’t help but think of Pablo Picasso’s quote: “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

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Inspiration for Making Art

Barking Up the Right Trees

Texture. Pattern. Color. Surprise. These elements attract and inspire me as I discover any and all of them in my everyday surroundings. Nature, however, serves up the richest assortment of them, often motivating the next idea to be realized in the studio. Vacations and day trips offer opportunities galore. I decided to share some of them with you today, a bit of a departure from my About the Painting series of posts.

I recently looked back through my thoroughly unorganized collection of images, noticing how often I photographed the bark and exposed roots of trees. I often find myself drawn into the mysterious beauty in the details.

I shot all these images with an iPhone 6, then used Photoshop to posterize them. Posterizing pumps up the contrast and draws out the color.

This twisted intertwining of roots and bark below presented itself on a walk through Fort Worth’s Botanic Gardens.

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The posterization of this image of tree bark really drew out the blues and golds against the gray.

Tree trunk

How can you not love the bark of the pine tree! I believe this is a Ponderosa pine, a stalwart thing that rises above the pine needles in my son and daughter-in-law’s Evergreen, Colorado, home.

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My recent road trip with my Portland-residing son took us through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park near Crescent City, California. Of course, seeing the old growth Coast Redwoods in all their gigantic glory was awesome, but closeups of the bark made for some equally compelling photos. A little Photoshop magic brought out the mossy greens, while the magenta accents were a sweet surprise.

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You can see in my paintings how nature’s textures take a prominent place in my work. Browse through Large Paintings, Mid-Size Paintings, and Small Paintings, and see if you can spot those inspired by trees.

Join me on Facebook and Instagram for behind-the-scenes peeks and first postings of new work.

All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2017 Laura Hunt

 

 

 

 

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About the Painting

A tall challenge

I am fortunate to be part of a group of gifted artists that meets monthly to support, encourage, and challenge one another. We’ve structured the “challenge” part of our activities this way: each month a different group member throws out a prompt that everyone responds to during that month. The challenge prompt is usually a word or a phrase, like “flowers” or “water” or “self-portrait.” Once it was a photo of broken shingles. Betsy’s roof was being replaced as the result of a particularly impressive hailstorm that had moved through the North Texas region. You can see how this monthly exercise might stretch one’s imagination a bit.

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Tall Tale was my response to the challenge prompt, “a story told,” dreamed up and tossed out there by Heidi. Since I focus on creating abstract and non-objective work, this might not seem like a fit. Oh, that’s right. That’s why it’s called a “challenge!”

My thinking process went something like this: Story. A story is a tale. Tales are often embellished and exaggerated. Tall. I reach for a tall canvas. (This one’s 12” x 36”.) Next come sketches where I play with symbols and patterns to weave a narrative. Settling on a water/desert/heat theme, I can just hear those haunting Native American flutes in the background.

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I render the patterns and symbols first. I want a progression, a story arc, so to speak, so my paint goes from the cool blues of water at the bottom, through the parched tans and ochres of the desert, up to the heat of the gold and copper sun. Splatters of orange red and blue energize the scene. Are they raindrops? Locusts? Birds? Arrows? You fill in the details, because that’s the viewer’s role and privilege.

Tall Tale is 12” x 36” mixed media on gallery-wrapped canvas. See it in a contextual photo on the Mid-Sized Paintings page. Contact me if you’d like to give it or any of my other paintings a good home.

Join me on Facebook and Instagram for behind-the-scenes peeks and first postings of new work.

All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2017 Laura Hunt
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