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, 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.

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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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, 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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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 Dove 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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