Body of Work, Inspiration for Making Art, My process, Uncategorized

Explaining myself

The monsoon season is here. Not that monsoons are a regular thing here in north Texas, but this year’s hurricanes have dumped more than the usual share of sogginess. That, combined with a premature cold front, makes it a pretty good day to be inside making art. Except for one thing. The studio is undergoing some sprucing up; it behooves me to stay out of the contractor’s way and allow him to toil away without my interference. So today, blog-writing it is.

Writing forces me to articulate the internal and external forces that influence, motivate, or get in the way of making art. I seem to find it helpful to explain myself to myself, thus this blog. In doing so, questions arise, like this one. What is it about a new material or surface that pulls me in? There are artists who have painted in one medium, say watercolor or oils, their entire artistic lives. They’ve fallen in love with it, and remain faithful. Because their focus is so sharp, they have become masters of the medium, liberating them to seriously play with content, subject matter, or another element of the process. It’s a respectable and honorable way to do art.

Part of me envies that focus. Don’t get me wrong. My studio habits are pretty good—I show up almost every day. And I can identify common threads in the work—linear elements, long flowing arcs, implied or actual texture, patterns, nature, a strong color palette. I’ve worked with acrylics and mixed media on canvas, not exclusively, although consistently, since 2014 now. But the siren call of an exciting new art supply is hard to ignore.

Metallic paint, for example, contributes spark to a work, and I continue to use it often. But when I tried metal leaf, its properties surprised me, the process engaged me, and the results felt so worth the learning curve. Even though I’m not a traditional artist, working with gold leaf connects me to the makers of gilded frames and religious icons of the past.

 

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I covered the whole background of Submerged with gold leaf, then painted over parts while leaving others exposed.

 

Canvases are typically rectangular or square. No problem with that. But when I saw the potential of painting on ceramic plates, holding back was not an option. The orb has its own presence, a sense of completeness in itself. Using a familiar process on circular concave surfaces resulted in works that make me smile.

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The String Theory series employs stencils, metallic paint, and exuberant laying on of paint.

Then there’s acrylic on canvas, either alone or with other media, which has been a staple in my studio. Until recently, I hadn’t tried acrylic on paper. An enormous “aha” sprang from my core as this simple material opened the door to the concept of practice. (See Putting the “practice” in my studio practice) Now I understand better why the masters created numerous studies before attempting a larger painting. Although good paper is not cheap, it is more economical than canvas, so there’s less pressure to get it right the first time. I just simultaneously painted the same abstract landscape three times! I tried various approaches side-by-side, and each study taught me something I hope will lead to a compelling larger work.

So what about the assemblages? Where does that come from? I’ve always been drawn to interesting pieces of junk–the discarded arm of a chair or a metal artifact from an old machine. Re-purposing them appeals to my practical side, probably from a childhood of farm life where making do with what we had was an everyday thing. I also find that working in three-dimensions requires a bit of engineering, not my natural bailiwick. It’s exhilarating to meet that kind of challenge, and end up with something whimsical and quirky.

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Embrace started with a discarded box, a weathered ax handle, and leftover wire and connectors.

That’s quite a bit of variation for one studio practice, but I’ll bet there are kindred spirits out there. Writing this tells me I’m not the kind of artist who is aiming to master a medium so much as master a way of being an artist. To me, that means experimentation, self-expression, and the joy of invention. Thanks for humoring my rainy day musings as I explain me to me.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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 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

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 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?

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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.

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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.

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All art is copyrighted and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2016-2018 Laura Hunt

 

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About the Painting, Body of Work, Inspiration for Making Art

The place of ideas

The concept for a new painting often arises out of the piece I am currently working on. Completing a painting that features the very stable, quiet and calming forces of horizontal marks generates thoughts about a more motion-filled and cacophonous design, with criss-crossing and arcing lines. (Click on images to see larger versions.)

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Or it may give birth to ideas on how to push the same concept even further. A painting that in its final stages partially overcomes the background may set me toward thinking of a more open, airy design—or other ways of using the background to influence what happens at the end. A black background creates a completely different experience than a white one, and I like to test them both.

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Color does a lot of heavy lifting in communicating the emotional tone of a work, so I’m sometimes drawn to pulling from a different part of the color spectrum for a subsequent piece. Maybe the last piece I completed incorporated reds and oranges for a hot and fiery mood that generates excitement. The follow-up might be a larger painting with a similar color palette, with the larger canvas encouraging an even bolder approach. But it could also mean that cool, quiet blues and greens form the basis for the next work. I followed Fire Dance, for example, with Tsunami.

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I’m not saying that external stimulation doesn’t generate ideas for paintings—it certainly does. Trips to museums, shows, galleries and even a YouTube video session often create a whirlwind of concepts that might eventually make their way into my work. But even so, they must go through an internal blender—no, not a blender—more of a butter churn–before they feel authentic to me.

Truly, ideas come from a deep and infinite universe, both the observable one of nature, objects and humanity, and the invisible one of the heart, the emotions and the intellect—and ultimately from the Creator who has embedded deep within us the power to create.

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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Body of Work, Inspiration for Making Art, sketchbook

30 days, 30 faces

In my last blog post, “Going small: a wee little personal project,” I described a self-imposed challenge of populating a small blank book with faces. I committed to drawing 30 faces in 30 days. By then I had a week’s worth of sketches.

I had 23 faces to go. Twenty-three days in which I had to find just a few minutes to play. (Okay, I’ll admit, there were a couple days when I just plain forgot, so I doubled up the next. Commitment is commitment, you know.) And while drawing a face a day isn’t required to be functional in the world, I did come to see it as a form of self-care–care of my artist’s spirit, care and nurturing of my own imagination.

How will today’s face be different from yesterday’s? Will it be the set of the eyes, the texture of the hair, the turn of the lips, the skin color pale or dark, the tilt of the nose? Nature, nurture and life bestow their imprints on our faces in myriad ways. That uniqueness is the most obvious way we recognize one another, but we make little conscious note of it.

Since I used no reference for the sketches, I don’t consider them to be portraits at all. I’m an abstract and assemblage artist, not a portrait or figurative artist. Any resemblance to real persons is totally accidental and unintended. Except for one, which I’m sure you will notice as you flip through the images. Using colored pencils, a medium I hadn’t worked with in many years, was as enjoyable as I remembered. My colored pencils are ancient! Some colors are down to nubs, so I’ve rewarded myself with a new set. Here is the completed 30-day project.

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A few random conclusions:

  • Humanity abounds with infinite variety.
  • Filling up this little book with cohesive yet playful drawings proved quite satisfying.
  • Imagination is a valuable asset. To keep it alive, it’s essential to give it a workout.
  • I hope to be more intentional in my observation of the faces that touch my life.

After a break, I’ll give myself another 30-day assignment, something different from this one, but one that stimulates my imagination–and helps fill up that book in meaningful ways. I’ll let you know about it when the time comes.

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

All art is copyrighted (except for that one I alluded to in the fourth paragraph) and may not be reproduced without express written permission. Copyright 2018 Laura Hunt

 

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