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

Knowing when to stop

Most of my paintings over the past several years have been abstract, in fact, very much so. They fall into the category of “non-objective abstract” paintings. So what does that mean? Basically, it means the artist does not have objects from the tangible world in mind, but rather is using color, line, texture, and form either as ends in themselves or as the means for expressing an idea. (I don’t know if that definition is acceptable to an art historian, but it works for me.) The viewer may find in the art a hint of the real world, and choose to interpret it with that in mind, but the artist does not necessarily have that intent.

My paintings Strong and Submerged are good examples. Both paintings leave the viewer on her own to find meaning, although the titles are fine clues as to intent. Cliffside is another work that perhaps implies “real” content by the title, but it’s expression, not depiction. I’ve long felt a strong connection to the abstract expressionists, like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, among others.

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Cliffside

Recently I’ve painted works that could be labeled as “objective abstraction.” In them, it seems obvious that I’ve chosen tangible subject matter, flowers or mesas, for example, but the objects are simplified. While the colors and shapes may or may not be representational of the actual subject, the viewer has no trouble identifying it. Pink Flowers on Green Table couldn’t be much clearer as to content, but realistic detail is at a minimum. Desert Sentinels is obviously a landscape, but again, the effort is to keep details to a minimum while creating the ambience of the stark, lonely desert. One could make an argument that these paintings are tied to the school of Impressionism, but since I don’t regard myself as an impressionist painter, I’m sticking with objective abstraction if attaching a genre is necessary.

I’m distinguishing between the two types of work in order to set up a problem I’ve recognized. Here it is: when painting non-objective works like Strong and Submerged, I know when the painting is done. It’s done when I’ve gone through my process and the end result pleases me. There may be some twists and turns before arriving, but I seldom micro-manage the final stage. No temptation to niggle with the details. I know when I’m done.

This is so much harder to do with tangible content that I want to break down to its essence. Simplification, it seems, is hard. Sometimes I use my own photographic references intending to create a very spare interpretation of, for example, a landscape. That’s how it begins. But as the work progresses, resisting the temptation to add detail is a battle of the wills. One voice whispers, “Over there. Add some green. Maybe a bush or a crevice. Yeah, that’ll make it better.” Then the other voice shouts, “Stop! Stop right where you are! You’re ruining it!”

The second voice is right. At least it’s right for me. I am not a realistic or photorealistic artist. Those are admirable schools of art, but going down the path of adding detail atop detail does not produce works that are true to my heart, that give me joy. My challenge is to forget the reference and let imagination and memory, however hazy, lead the way. The goal is to make a good painting, not to reproduce what’s in front of me.

A wise mentor has said, “Stop when the painting is 90% complete.” Listening to the second voice, recognizing when I reach that place, require self-awareness, sharpened intuitiveness, and growth. I welcome all three.

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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, 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.

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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.

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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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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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