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.

 

18461 Submerged-pro-sm-wp

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.

18431 String Theory S-lo-wp

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.

18423 Embrace-pro-wp

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.

 

 

 

Standard
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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
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.)

17384 BirdsOnAWetLawn-thumb 17417 Slightly Ebullient-thumb-wp

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.

17385 DoveInMourning-lo-thumb-wp 17387 APenny'sWorthOfSparrows-lo-thumb-wp

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.

17390 FireDance-OriginalConfig-thumb 17391 Tsunami-thumb-wp

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

 

 

 

Standard
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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

 

Standard
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.

biscuits-lodowelplugs-lo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

rustyjunk-loassemblageinprogress-lo

 

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.”

Standard
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.

TreeBarkTexture-2-post-lo

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.

PineBarkTexture-2-post-lo

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.

CoastRedwoodTexture-2-post-lo

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

 

 

 

 

Standard