Body of Work, My process

Putting the “practice” into my studio practice

An online class led by an artist whose work I love and respect has turned my attention to the idea of practice. I found it illuminating that he warms up—practices–every day in the studio before turning to his serious paintings. After decades of being a successful artist, he still practices. Eight quick studies of a pear or a flower or a figure, each one different, but using the exercise to explore, to correct, to learn, casting off what doesn’t meet his standards.

That motivated some self-examination. How often have I plunged into a project headfirst, expecting the result to perfectly sync up with my vision, but wind up disappointed, not just in the painting, but in myself as well? My self-esteem plunges and I’ve squandered time and materials. My artist friend Betsy said, tongue firmly in cheek, “Well, every painting is a masterpiece.” That may be the intention, but how often do I fail to meet my own expectations? Calling it “practice” removes the pressure. Practicing on paper instead of pricey canvas helps.

18474 New Mexico Landscape Study 4-lo        18471 New Mexico Landscape Study 1-lo

New Mexico Landscape Study 4              New Mexico Landscape Study 1

Right now I’m on a practice binge inspired by my summer trip to New Mexico. (See previous blog: Why I took a class in textile dying.) I’ve immersed myself into abstract landscape painting. Although many of my previous abstracts have had a landscape heart with horizontal lines and shapes and references to the land, this is a road I haven’t traveled quite this way. I’ve been doing this for several weeks now, and there are some real clunkers (wa wa wa, descending scale), but I see something happening.

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Red Bluffs

So why do we resist practicing? (Only speaking for myself here. Kudos to you if you’re already dedicated to practicing.) Is it because practice reveals weaknesses? Oh. That’s the point. Practice builds skills. Practice breeds confidence. Practice improves results. Practice closes the gap between so-so and competent, even awesome. And practice assumes I’m going to improve.

So I’ve vowed to practice more. I will give myself time to self-evaluate. I’ll allow—and acknowledge–mistakes. (Let’s hope I notice the worst ones–and learn from them.) I’ll toss out the losers—or paint over them–without looking back. I’ll look for where I need correction or development. I’ll allow the idea to mature and evolve. And I’ll aim less for the masterpiece that for excellence and the pure joy of creating art.
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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

 

 

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Body of Work, Inspiration for Making Art, My process

Why I took a class in textile dying

Recently I responded to the call I felt to travel to Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico to take an art workshop and soak in the stunning landscape that inspired Georgia O/Keeffe during some of her most productive years.

GRSunset      KitchenMesa

My first trip in 2013, although art-related, had the larger purpose of healing after a traumatic life change. This time, my purpose was to learn something totally different from the painting and assemblage activities that occupy my studio time now. I signed up for “Tie Dye, Shibori, Batik and More,” taught by Valerie Bashaw, an accomplished fiber artist and teacher from Kansas City. I had no idea what lay ahead, but the description promised we would take home a completed piece. That sounded good. I was in.

Val shepherded our class of eight through the ins and outs of rust-dying with junky metal parts; tie-dying (It’s back, you know.); eco-dying using natural elements like flower petals, eucalyptus leaves, walnuts, turmeric, and even dead bugs (cochineal, to be precise); batik, which involves drawing or painting on the fabric with wax; and Shibori, a Japanese technique involving twisting or folding the fabric and binding it before dying. Some amazing work developed as we realized we could combine two or three techniques to create something quite beautiful. And as it turned out, Val over-delivered—all of us produced multiple dyed works, not just the one she promised. My takeaway? Twelve pieces! Not all were successful, but still, the week was productive indeed—and a little intense as well.

 

Several friends have asked, “Why did you take a fabric-dying class? Wouldn’t it have made sense to take the abstract painting class, since you’re an abstract painter?” Part one of the answer lies in how I’ve experienced creativity jumping across apparent divides. For example, reading a poem can trigger an idea for a painting’s color palette. Observing shapes, colors and textures of piles of junk just before heavy trash pickup day can inspire some intriguing photography. Creative thinking in one arena can activate the same in another.

Here’s part two of the answer. Stimulating your brain creates new neural pathways, I’m told. Although it’s uncomfortable at first, being a newbie can lead one down some adventurous roads. An amateur is someone who engages in an activity for pleasure rather than money, or one whose skills may not be of the highest caliber. I fit both definitions in this instance. But the origin of the word “amateur” is a French word for someone who has a “taste for” or a “love of” something. I was (and am) that kind of amateur too.

I’m anticipating a studio day soon when I go solo with some rust-dying (no Val to guide me), and ponder how to integrate the images into a painting or a 3-D work. It will require me to be curious, willing to stumble and make mistakes, unafraid to be an amateur. Such an exercise will nurture not just my artist’s heart, but my human spirit as well.

Now go try something you’ve never done before. Be an amateur.

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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About the Assemblage, Inspiration for Making Art, My process, New Art

Transforming stuff: a process

Building assemblages requires a lot of stuff, stuff I collect at estate and garage sales, stuff friends give me when they’re cleaning out closets, stuff I find at my local recycling store, and even the stuff from my own kitchen drawers. Assemblage-building requires a good inventory of flotsam and jetsam, and there’s never quite enough.

foundobjects-lo    18447 book-Detail-

I’d recently collected several vintage books, one entitled When Yesterday Was Young. It became the “starter dough” for this three-dimensional piece. The doll parts made me think of childhood. I found two small wooden boxes, one a little larger than the other. The smaller one fit perfectly on top, and has such lovely dovetailed corners; I knew I had to use it. The doll’s head would fit great on top (with an armature for invisible support), but her long tresses had to go. A pearly pin became a tiara atop the new shorn hairdo that fit my vision. 18447flowers-Detail-To draw attention to the wonderful expression on the face, I created a background of sorts using part of a man’s paisley tie. Some things you can’t explain.

 

 

 

 

18447 heartprincessdetail

A heart-shaped box fit perfectly inside the bottom box. To further the idea of childhood dreams the book title hints at, I attached a smaller “princess” doll’s head inside and surrounded it with some dreamy vintage crocheted lace. The smaller box on top became a framed shadow box for some lovely flowers from an old costume jewelry piece. I attached red disks from an abacus-like toy to a dowel I had painted; this nicely filled the space between the top and bottom boxes. With boxes and book secured to each other, I painted a striped pattern around the front edge of the bottom box, relating it to the striped dowel and adding visual interest.

18447 marble-Detail-

I constructed armatures for the doll’s arms to secure them. Once attached, the arms begged to hold something. The large vintage marble in the right hand reminded me of the earth—big blue marble and all–and the sense of holding the future. That pleased me a lot! But the left hand needed something too; empty just didn’t feel right. My search ended when I found a little metal heart that may have been part of a necklace. It speaks of childlike love, open and ready to share.

18447 heartinhand-Detail

You can see the completed assemblage here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how this piece came about. The process may sound simple, but it’s not nearly as clear-cut as it seems. There’s a lot of searching and digging for compatible and meaningful pieces that contribute to the concept. Sometimes a piece will stay incomplete on my workbench until the next step reveals itself, which may take days or even weeks. But it’s the discovery and surprises inherent in creating this type of work that make it so satisfying to my artist’s heart.

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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My process

Beyond brushes

A stash of brushes, an oval-shaped palette and a pile of rags—they’re some of the time-tested tools that have served artists superbly over the centuries. I don’t see that changing. There will always be painters whose work style, preferred process or desired results make the traditionally-equipped tool kit an absolute necessity, and the culture is better for it.

Then there are artists who can’t help but depart from convention, whose drive to experiment leads them to unconventional tools. Although standard brushes and canvases are very much a part of my own reservoir, I’m drawn to many of the effects achieved with non-standard implements. I’ll share some of them with you today.

Cardboard scrapers

cardboardscrapers-wp    scraperexample-wp

Rectangles of various widths with their corrugated edges can create some juicy paint effects. I like to lay down squirts of two or three different colors, then scrape them across the surface I’m working on. It’s where the colors intermingle that the magic happens.

Squeeze bottles

squeezebottles-wp    squeezebottleexample-wp

(See finished painting here.)

Squeeze bottles–they’re not just for catsup any more. I use them to create long sweeping arcs and curves; sometimes I get a serendipitous splat when the bottle is almost empty. Recently I’ve produced my paint splatters with squeeze bottles and a quick flip of the wrist. There’s a degree of tension between control of the tool and not-so-much control: accidents can—and do—happen. But if you’ve learned to expect it, is it really an accident?

Cheap combs and picks

combs-wp    combtextureexample-wp

(Click here to see the completed work begun above right.)

Texture is a key component of my work. I lay down my favorite texture goo, and before it dries, I use one or more of these combs from the dollar store to make impressions and marks that support the vision. They’re great for making concentric arcs, parallel grooves, and crosshatch patterns.

Paint rollers

roller-wp    rollerexample-wp

There’s nothing like a paint roller for covering a surface quickly! The example above right is one step past laying down the background, but suffice it to say, the three 24-inch square canvases required a lot of paint for good coverage. My three-inch wide roller helped make short work of the background. I’ve even used it in a similar way to the cardboard scrapers by laying down two or three different paint colors and rolling over them to achieve some interesting blends.

I’m always on the lookout for my next “off-label” art tool or material. It’s just one of the things that keeps my studio practice exciting for me. Art should be surprising—for the viewer and the artist as well.

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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2017-2018 Laura Hunt

 

 

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About the Painting, Art and words, poem and painting

About Tsunami: a verse

17391 Tsunami-lo-sm

Click on image for details of this painting.

deluge / rush of woe
tosses life about
with floods of doubt / grief / struggle

for this / the craftsman builds
a boat / worthy of the sea

Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

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 2017-2018 Laura Hunt
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About the Painting, Art and words, Body of Work

The pairing of painting and poem

Where did this thought originate? Possibly from my recent acceptance into the Art & Words Collaborative Show in which the visual artists create a new work responding to a chosen written work, while the wordsmiths write a new piece responding to a selected visual work. So the idea may have come from that.

Or the thought could have bubbled up out of a webinar about the power of words, especially titles and artist’s statements, to connect viewer with art. Likely though, it was a mental mashup of the two experiences with whatever else was churning in my mind’s recesses–the need to examine more deeply the meaning of my own work. What resulted was a few sparse lines of free verse to usher passage into the heart of the piece.

After completing several small paintings, I took the time to really absorb them into my being, a wholly different act than painting. And although the purpose was to reach inside myself more profoundly, I hope the written lines may also help you, the viewer, to connect with the work as well. If each poem stands on its own, I’ll accept it as a bonus and a gift. Whether I make this a permanent part of my studio practice remains to be seen, but at this moment, the call to reflection resounds in my ears.

Here’s the first pairing of poem and painting. I hope you enjoy it.

Quiet Value

tender orbs dangle
above shaded earth
a flash of worth
stored in a fecund pod

Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

 

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Body of Work, Pattern in art

Pattern and surprise

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a lot about pattern. I’ve noticed that even from my earliest art-making days, pattern has often appeared to one degree or another. Why? Is it me? Is there some sort of OCD compulsion within that drives me to make rows of dots or spirals or zigzags? Or is there a universal human need for pattern?

I needed to find a clear definition of pattern. Turns out there are many, but out of the eleven I found in Mirriam-Webster, this is the one I found most relevant:

a reliable sample of traits, acts, tendencies, or other observable characteristics of a person, group, or institution: a behavior pattern, spending patterns, the prevailing pattern of speech

Searching a little further, I found this one on Wikipedia:

A pattern is a discernible regularity in the world or in a manmade design. As such, the elements of a pattern repeat in a predictable manner.

Pattern is all around us, in both tangible and intangible forms. Calendars and clocks help us organize our lives. Music and speech depend on the repetition of elements to make sense of sound and language. Research data looks for behavior patterns in humans, plants and animals to make predictions or to analyze the world around us.

Order and predictability are positive aspects of both our personal daily lives and of society at large–to a certain degree. When every day is the same, don’t we long for an interruption, a break, a surprise? Aren’t unbroken patterns with no variety excruciatingly boring? As a lover of order and pattern, how–and why– does that manifest itself in my art?

17393 Parallax-OriginalConfig-thumb-wp  17413 Child Bearer-Front-thumb-wp  16343 WarmingUp-thumb-wp  17384 BirdsOnAWetLawn-thumb

Click on images to see larger versions.
Above left: Seeming random lines for a pattern that streaks across a quad of canvases.
Second from left. Dots, stripes and zigzags lend a primitive character to this assemblage.
Third from left. A rectangle filled with rows and columns of dots interrupts a pattern of horizontal stripes.
Right. Variations of mostly green horizontal lines support the row of birds while splatters of color invade on the regularity of the composition.

I’ve reached a fairly simple self-analysis. I have a need for the pleasure that rendering a pattern affords. There’s a meditative quality to it. I like a degree of reliability. Pattern is a useful tool in bringing about order in a chaotic world. Making patterns and viewing them makes me feel safe and secure, but energized as well. (Polka dots may be predictable, but oh boy, do they enliven a surface!) I resist the idea of highly mechanical, robotic patterns though, and always see a human, handmade essence with mistakes and irregularities within the repetition of visual elements. And I need more than just the variation that my human hand naturally produces; I need a surprise of some kind, whether subtle or dramatic. Placing an organic shape like a human face over a background of squares and spirals is one type of surprise. Flinging paint splatters across the canvas over a pattern of criss-crossed lines is another.

18434 Ariose-thumb-wp    18429 String Theory K-thumb-wp

Click on images to see larger versions.

I’ve gained some clarity of my work and my practice as a space where discipline and spontaneity clash to produce unique objects that enrich and interpret the human experience. While the need for pattern may be especially strong in me, I believe that the visual expression of it strikes an unspoken universal chord in many who view it as well.

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 2016-2018 Laura Hunt

 

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