Showing posts with label process. Show all posts
Showing posts with label process. Show all posts

November 20, 2016

How To Be A Better Painter




So, this happened today. My favorite and most useful tool suddenly gave out on me. I can't even remember how many years I've had it or how many palette knives I've purchased since (that were never half as good), but it's been a constant in my painting life for... like... ever....
Blah, so much for reliability.

Samantha Palmeri, broken palette knife


Samantha Palmeri, broken palette knife

Samantha Palmeri, broken palette knife

Anyhow, in other pragmatic news today.
Do you ever have one of those moments in the studio when you realize you're standing way too far, like three feet away from your painting wall and you're thinking why can't I see what the hell I'm doing??

How To Be A Better Painter: stand closer to the fucking canvas

November 2, 2016

Another Artist Dilemma

P A T I E N C E

I just watched a video of Eddie Martinez claiming to be one of the most impatient people in the world. Maybe that's one of the reasons I like his paintings so much!

I'm an oil painter who does not have the patience (or the time) literally, to sit and wait for the paint to dry!

P A T I E N C E . . .
Not a new concept, definitely a virtue, and for me a never-ending challenge inside the art studio and out.

Maria Popova's recent musings on the seven greatest things she's learned as the creator of brain pickings include:
#7. “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” 
... As I’ve reflected elsewhere, the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one spritely burst and yet, as a culture, we’re disinterested in the tedium of the blossoming. But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of one’s character and destiny.
Although she was referring more to success in life, I'm talking about patience in the studio. My work may be process oriented, aka 'the tedium of the blossoming', but that doesn't make me any more patient. Lately I've been forcing myself to think about it more and more. 

For the most part I'm a fast painter and I like to work on human sized canvases like four to five feet. Since I've been working on a much smaller scale lately, this patience thing has become a lot more relevant. Painting small is really tough for me. Those canvases fill up fast! There's a moment when you're painting, you get a feeling that if you don't walk away from it right that second you'll destroy it and never be able to get it back. 

Samantha Palmeri art
one of four smaller paintings still very much in progress
I've never had much success working on one single piece until I drop. I've always worked on several things at once and this is exactly why. I have to remind myself, this will not be resolved in 4 hours, or 8, or 12, just let it do its thing!

In the mean time I have a real need to keep going, be busy, keep moving, so... on to the next canvas, and the next, and back around again. If I'm in a good place and things are moving quickly, I can finish a 5 foot painting in a week or two.


Needless to say, I have a lot of paintings piled up. What I'm suddenly realizing, though, is this pressing need to slow it all down. I need to be more consistent, more cognizant of what's working and where it's all going. It's like when you (well I don't know if they even give typing tests anymore) take a typing test for a job and you can type a thousand words a minute but half of them are spelled wrong. It's time to slow down and get it right.

 
Of course if I could apply this idea to all the other tedious everyday things I have no patience for, I'd be in really good shape! I am a counter of days, counting back to the past and ahead to the future. I am very aware of the time and the date. I clock my hours. I write lists and letters and blog posts and journal entries. I keep track of things. Sometimes I wish I could go to bed and wake up a week later, problems miraculously resolved. Like going on a diet, you expect to lose 10 pounds in a week and suddenly every day is dragging on like it'll never end. There's a part of me that can't help it and says, but if time is the great healer, let's go already!


Patience would mean slowing down a lot, and being perfectly happy with that. Patience would mean standing still long enough to let the moment have its moment. That seems useful... and good. Some moments need more time. How long does this one need?

Some paintings need more time, and that's what I'm trying to appreciate. In the meanwhile I'll just keep tacking those new canvases to the wall... 
 t a c k 
t a c k 
t a c k



Here's an interesting article for further reading: Patience and Painting


October 17, 2016

Philip Guston, Who The Hell Wants Paint On A Surface?

Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Alchemist, 1960, oil on canvas, 61 x 67 inches

Philip Guston in an interview with Joseph Ablow 1966

"For reasons which I did not understand at the time... when I went into nonobjective painting or at least non-figurative painting, I felt I was even then involved with imagery, even though I didn't understand the imagery, but I thought it was imagery.

For some reason that is not quite clear to me yet, and maybe I don't want to be clear about it either, I was forced and pushed into the kind of painting that I did. That is to say that the demand, in the dialogue of myself with this, was that I make some marks.
It speaks to me, I speak to it. We have terrible arguments going all night for weeks and weeks.
"Do I really believe that?" I make a mark, a few strokes, and I argue with myself. Not "Do I like it or not?" but "Is it true or not?" And "Is that what I mean? Is that what I want?"

But there comes a point when something catches on the canvas, something grips on the canvas. I don't know what it is. I mean, when you put paint on a surface, most of the time it looks like paint.
Who the hell wants paint on a surface? 
You take it off, put it on, it goes over here, it moves over a foot. As you go closer, it starts moving in inches not feet, then half-inches. There comes a point, though, when the paint doesn't feel like paint. I don't know why. Some mysterious thing happens. I think you experience this, maybe in parts of canvases or something like that. If you can do it by painting a face or an eye or a nose or an apple, it doesn't matter. What counts is that the paint should really disappear. Otherwise it's craft or something like that."
Philip Guston painting
Philip Guston, Portrait I, 1965, oil on canvas, 68 x 78 inches







July 14, 2016

The Killer of Imagination

I think I've been wrong.

Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin

What can I say. Some people who know me intimately will think that's very funny. But yes, I think I've been, I mean I know I've been overly self-conscious, which is the killer of imagination and impulse. All my musing about muses and audience can't possibly be right. I don't need more people looking over my shoulder, I need less.

We should learn to be our own muses is my new motto. 

I have been away from the studio for probably the longest stretch since moving to Beacon, NY two years ago. I've worked hard in that time, making over 25 paintings and countless works on paper, so I very much needed this break... At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin
It all started with this year's Beacon Open Studios at the end of May. I spent two full days gibbering to strangers (and friends) about my artwork. Something a lot of us who participated in the event noticed was that after a while of describing your work to people, you start repeating yourself over and over. The same descriptive words start flying out of your mouth. And you hear yourself saying things you never heard before. You're like, oh, so that's what my work is really about!!

So what did I hear myself saying all day for two days straight? That my paintings were in a transition phase, that they weren't exactly the kind of paintings I wanted to be making but somehow they needed to be made, that they were more formal and more figurative than I wanted them to be. Although I had very positive feedback, I found my own self-effacing comments very revealing. It was clear to me that that series of paintings was done with. But what to do next? And why did I need to make all those paintings that now felt forced and untruthful?

So, I've been away from it for a while.

Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin
The timing has been impeccable since I did just move, and moving as we all know, is hell. But now I'm ready to go back and I can't imagine what to do.

For starters, I've decided to refrain from sharing works in progress, so you probably won't see any new photographs for a while. In this age of sharing every second of our lives with everyone on the planet, I've suddenly found myself needing some privacy.  

I have a lot of work to do. Whatever it is that's been keeping me from the most truthful work I can possibly make has got to go! So I may need to close off the world for a bit, hole up in the studio and not come out till I figure something out. 

 
Agnes Martin
Agnes Martin



Promise I won't be MIA for too long..............




June 6, 2016

Secrets of the Muse

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is such a good book. Even though I don't consider myself a writer per se, most of what he talks about could easily be applied to any artist of any discipline. He may have a whole chapter on vocabulary and grammar but it could just as well be about color, line and composition. There's so much to talk about with this book. His fascinating personal history, cool background information on some of his best novels and the Hollywood movies they turned into, the realities of being a working artist, the pragmatics of writing and persevering, etc. I've earmarked so many pages I will probably have to read the whole thing all over again.

Louise Bourgeois, The Insomnia Drawing no.14, 1995
One of the major things that struck me was the idea of a muse or an "ideal reader". It's been on my mind since page 215 which was like 2 months ago. King writes,
Someone- I can't remember who, for the life of me- once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, "I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?" For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha.
Gerhard Richter
The first thing I thought about when I read this was a blog post I wrote almost a year ago that started with that very person's name who said the thing about writing like you're writing to one person. I never published the post, ended up deleting the whole thing, and subsequently cannot remember who the person was either. crazy.

Anyway as soon as I read it it was everywhere. It's like every article I've read since then has some artist naming his/her spouse as their muse or "ideal reader", the person they show their work to first and whose opinion they most rely on. It's been an epiphany for me. It's one of those subconscious things that you're aware of without realizing you're aware of it. Like when you're stuck on a piece of artwork. You know something is wrong but you can't articulate it until someone else comes in and points it out. Then it's, oh my God of course, that's what I knew the whole time.

Cy Twombly
The epiphany is that I realized I do not have a muse, and what's worse, I think I need one... badly.

So what the heck is a muse anyway? King writes,
... she's the one I write for, the one I want to wow... when I write a scene that strikes me as funny... I am also imagining my Ideal Reader finding it funny... He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time... You'll find yourself bending the story even before Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence. I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working.
There are plenty of arguments about the role the audience or viewer plays in works of art. Some artists claim they don't care and only make the work for themselves. I have a hard time with that. My thought is that visual art is visual. It needs a pair of eyes on it to complete the whole process. King seems to agree, at least about writing, when he says, "if you really feel that way, why bother to publish at all?"

Louise Bourgeois
Since I believe the viewer is an important part of my  work, then it goes along that a muse might also be important.
It's nice to have someone to want to impress, and what artist can't use another pair of eyes? If not to lavish their opinionated bits on you then at least to point out the things you can't easily see by yourself. It's kind of like having an extra standard to hold the work up to. A criteria that's outside yourself. That's what makes it useful. Because as artists we are so absorbed in our own heavy heads, it's important to step away sometimes and see things from a different point of view.

So the big question is, do you believe in the muse. Is it important? Is it necessary? Do you have one? Do you need one like me, and if so, where do you find one??????????


April 2, 2016

"Any Time Spent In The Studio Is Not A Waste Of Time"


Speaking of rituals, which I seem to do a lot of,
I was wondering what other artists do in the studio...

Yesterday I went to the studio for the first time in a little over a week and it felt like I hadn't been there in a month. I thought I was going to end up sitting on the couch staring into space and conveniently procrastinating the day away, but I totally surprised myself and got to work right away.

Samantha Palmeri painting in progress
here's the painting I worked on, still unfinished. See it finished HERE

It made me realize that there are a lot of ways to procrastinate (no kidding). But a lot of the things I used to think were taking up, a.k.a wasting, too much time are actually necessary parts of the whole process. Yesterday I did what I always do and took the time to empty all the clumped up skins of oil paint at the bottom of my paint jars. I refilled them with new colors, mixed up a fresh jar of medium, threw away old rags, and poured new Gamsol. By moving through my regular routine I was able to naturally move right back into the paintings themselves without too much painful effort. I also sat and looked for a long time which used to feel like serious loitering but is another important and necessary tool.

The truth is that sometimes just standing around doing nothing is helpful, as if simply absorbing it all in is as much of an activity as the painting itself. Regardless, I'm still glad that wasn't the only thing I accomplished yesterday.

I used to have a sign in the studio that said Any Time Spent in the Studio is not a Waste of Time, which by the way I just found out is quoted in a bizarre little book JERRY SALTZ ART CRITIC's Fans, Friends, & The Tribes Suggested ART STUDIO DOOR SIGNS of Real Life or Fantasy.

I still think it's true.. 

So back to all you studio workers, what are your rituals or routines that help you get going??



May 20, 2015

suck it up and spit it out

some notes that I took after a long weekend of open studio conversations...

view of my studio during Beacon Open Studios




how is a painting perceived?
a painting that you could see the artist stepping into and stepping out of. feeling it first and then thinking it. it's that spewing out and reeling in motion. kids do that with pool water, they suck it up and spit it out. these are two things that go together, an in and out simultaneously, but there are many dichotomies also at work. there is soft and hard, the slathering on and wiping away. the act of half destroying a thing in order for it to emerge to its full potential, and the act of knowing how to do that and how to repeat it. to purposely destroy a piece with the faith in the process that the painting will eventually complete itself. this is the most difficult thing because the potential is for complete destruction. if you're lucky, the reward outweighs the failure every time.
of course I don't actually believe in luck...





January 12, 2015

Momentum in the Studio, continued

Thoughts on keeping momentum in the studio... 

Here's what happens when you let your paintings dictate their own path... they keep it going. 

They don't suddenly need a break after a few months to change direction. They naturally reinvent, reconfigure, and turn back around on themselves. 

You find yourself immersed in the work 
losing your way, and then finding your way.

You get lost
you find yourself
you get lost
you find yourself 
... repeat

You stumble onto a color, a texture, or a technique that takes you through five paintings, and then suddenly you stumble onto another set of colors, textures or techniques, and you forget all about the first ones you were so intrigued by five paintings ago... But then you find them again. 

abstract painting #1

You've pulled from one source here and another source there but it all becomes one long conversation. You just have to allow the work to keep going long enough to circle back around. If you hold out long enough, you'll eventually get back to that original infatuation, the thing that entranced you to begin with. 


At a certain point one has to stop dictating to the artwork and allow the artwork to dictate to them. Otherwise you end up the way I used to be, always starting and stopping a new series after a few month's time. By allowing each artwork to have a life of it's own and go off on it's own tangent, you're able to maintain a certain momentum. 
I used to think every canvas had to say everything and had to include every single idea and/or technique that I was ever interested in. I now know that that is not only impossible, it is extremely debilitating.

There's no way to recapture an exact feeling, idea, or moment in the studio, but 

if you give the work the space it needs, it will slowly unfold on itself and recapture the feeling all on its own. 

well, seemingly on it's own...

Momentum in the Studio- part I





January 8, 2015

Momentum in the Studio

Every moment in the studio is it's own fleeting irreplaceable moment. You can't get it back. You can't recapture your exact mood or state of mind no matter how hard you try. When I leave the studio for the weekend I come back to a wall full of quizzical paintings. Sometimes it's hard to imagine what I was going through just two or three days ago. It's hard to remember, and it's even harder to try and put myself back there and pick up where I left off.

Sally Mann photograph 2004

In one way the starts and stops are good because with them comes less single mindedness and a more well rounded set of thoughts and feelings. But it's also nice to feel like you're on a moving vessel and not one that is constantly jerking around.

My mother used to yell at me when I sold or gave away a painting she liked because I'd always tell her I'd make her another one but never did. I tried, but you can't go back.

With every series I've worked on, it's the same. I work for as long as I'm completely entranced. Once I lose the momentum I know it's over. I'm usually good for about 10 paintings in a series and then it's on to something else. Of course the something else is related, as most work ends up as a continuation, but it is different.


That cycle is beginning to change. My paintings are demanding much more of me... hence the quizzical looks... Things are moving at a much swifter pace than usual. Even within just the last few pieces I've completed I feel like I can't turn around or look back. I think for the first time I am letting the work do it's own thing and flow right through me. I just have to keep up the momentum and keep it flowing...

Momentum in the Studio- continued


December 30, 2014

the life of a painting

started the day finishing these two paintings...



...and ended the day with something entirely different
I guess I missed my old lines


How do you get a line to smile at you or say hello to the line standing next to it?
or "Merry Christmas" or "I saw you in the supermarket last week"?
Is this possible? Can lines exchange such pleasantries?
Should they be required to make such small talk?

There comes a moment in the life of a painting when
it's not enough to leave behind an idea that something may have just happened here.
There comes a moment when line needs to speak to line,
with color asking all the questions for a change.

This way we could all be in it together, frolicking around, acting out.

I'm not quite there yet... almost.


















November 14, 2014

scenes from my art studio, November 14th


I have had a renewed determination lately to get as much work done as humanly possible. It all started with an amazing and inspiring talk at the Garrison Art Center by artist Judy Pfaff (who I'll write more on later as she is my absolute new favorite artist). It also coincided with what I thought would be an open studio event at my studio building last week, which by the way, didn't even know had a name: "KUBE". Although it turned out to be free chips and red wine for someone else's opening, I ended up with an organized and raring to go studio space, which is always a much needed good thing.

here's my space last week just about ready for company

This morning I started my day looking around and thinking,
"I don't know what the hell I'm doing but I sure am doing a hell of a lot of it".

studio view this morning November 14th, 2014

sculpture pieces

It's been an interesting week. Monday I met my studio neighbor for the first time and another painter down the hall. Tuesday I brought my daughter to work with me. Wednesday I went and bought some new painting tools to play with and a space heater to keep me from freezing. Guess whose landlord decided to turn the heat on as soon as I plugged it in?

space heater
painting tools

my new favorite toy
Thursday I ended up cleaning all my brushes before I went home. I also may have had a great moment of clarity (which doesn't happen often by the way), so much that I changed my plans for Friday so I could spend another day working.

dirty paint brushes


I now have 6 paintings I am working on simultaneously, the source of which is all the same two globs I've had tacked to my wall for years.

meet my muse: the mark on the right and his dialogue


















After all of this and due to all of it, the end of the day, and week, appeared much more promising than the start of it.

the two pieces I worked on today
this one might actually be finished
this one definitely isn't






March 14, 2014

the comfort zone: spaces we create in


I had a wonderful conversation last night with my amazing friend and writer Beth Mann about the spaces we create in. It is so nice to talk to artists of other disciplines because again and again it reiterates how those of us who spend our lives creating often face the same issues, the same challenges and play the same mind games with ourselves no matter what we're working on.

For example, where does an artist feel most comfortable working? 


You would imagine their own studio, at their own desk, their own space, their own computer - but

Louise Bourgeois
perhaps the most satisfying work isn't always done in the most comfortable setting. 

Sometimes faced with the challenge of working outside one's comfort zone, interesting things start to happen. Once you get used to a situation too much there tends to follow a period of predictable and often stale proceedings. You may be going with the flow, producing the same paintings you always have, writing the same stories you always have, but art needs to shake things up. 

Isn't that the criteria of art? 


In order to shake things up sometimes we as artists also need to be shaken up. This aint fun or easy. Comfortable and complacent is much cozier, however, look what happens when we leave that comfort zone.....we surprise ourselves. We discover something we hadn't discovered before, and it's EXCITing! This is what the viewer sees and the reader reads, they feel that excitement. 

In my case, if my life hadn't been shaken up with my last adventure in owning The Art House Gallery, I would've been in a serious creative rut by now. Because I was displaced temporarily using the gallery as my studio in between customers and classes, I started working on different and unexpected projects. I was able to make paintings that would've been way too large for my home studio, as well as work with materials that I wouldn't have ordinarily chosen. Now that I'm back in my home studio I'm continuing to work with some of these materials and loving it! 

Also shaking my world up is the fact that my house has been on the market for the past ten months. This has severely altered my work habits and process of making. Because we have people constantly coming to look at the house, I've wasted a lot of my time trying to keep a neat and tidy work space, which is an oxymoron at best. Psychologically feeling stifled in my own space has been extremely frustrating, but it surprisingly has also resulted in an exciting new direction for my work, including some risk taking I wasn't prepared for.

In the end, I'm so glad I was forced out of my comfort zone because it has led to some true creativity.




February 15, 2014

the making of an art piece


Here is a video I made with the help of my editor husband. 

I now know how to edit my own videos!



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCg9almatQE


This video is made in real time and emphasizes the artist's role as Hand Worker
Although we can see that it is a rope of some kind, the specific thing that is being made remains a mystery. The ruddy and fibrous wet strands of material are undisclosed, allowing the viewer's mind to wander.


Continuously working and engaging in the art making process allows for unexpected moments like this. I originally wanted to film this project to document the process of  making the rope, but I am very happy with the video as its own art piece. I'd love to see this projected on a gallery wall one day!



December 29, 2013

the secret life of walter mitty & my year of artwork in review

 

Walter Mitty is an interesting guy. 

I have to say I loved the movie. I saw it last night. Although I've heard complaints that it's yet another remake of a perfectly good movie, which I'd usually agree with, (I didn't know it was a remake, but in order to give it a proper opinion I found the 1947 Danny Kaye version online and watched it today) in this case I much prefer the remake. Although the original was silly and very entertaining in a 1947 Danny Kaye kind of way, the newer movie had much more depth. Completely subjective, of course, as every movie hits you just at that certain moment of your life. It helped a lot that I have very fond memories of my brother's Stretch Armstrong. We also reference Pony Boy on a daily basis in my house, and my husband and I just had a conversation an hour before about living in the moment which the movie is all about. It was inspiring, made me want to take an airplane someplace.

The reason I mention this here is that it also made me think a lot about my artwork. This past year my artwork has been all about being in the moment. 

I've attempted for the first time to go with the flow and allow the materials to dictate my process as opposed to the other way around. I used to take a lot of time mentally planning what my next painting series would be. I'd gather all my reference pictures that I've been gathering for years. I'd contemplate what worked and what didn't work from the last series and what was I really trying to say, etc.

This past year I scrapped all of that. It's been all about using readily available materials that I find interesting, working on a much smaller scale, making handmade things that literally fit in my hand, using what I'm good at and what I enjoy, fine tuning what interests me visually, going back to the basics of color and line and texture. It's been fun, and a lot like watching Walter Mitty dream about something so much that it becomes a reality.

Being an artist is all about this fine tuning of what you dream about, what your art can be, what you want it to do for you or say about you...

 

There have been times when I've questioned why some of the artwork I love to look at is so opposite of what I make myself. Part of that has led me to dream bigger dreams, and not get caught up in my own bad habits. If I'm not enjoying my work I can't expect anyone else to and if I'm not totally interested and excited by it no one else will be either.

So, one of my new year's resolutions this year is to see these projects through even if they don't seem like they're going anywhere. Keep on working...until they become something I want them to.

Here's my year of artwork in review:



 mixed media collages and dioramas. some of these you've seen and others you haven't

watercolor collages on handmade paper
some experiments with spray foam and paint. you'll definitely be seeing more of this soon
more mixed media collages


 the beginnings of my newest cross stitcheries

laundry meat rope


watercolors

inspired by laundry meat rope







one of my favorites from this group


this group of watercolors was a new approach for me; instead of fulfilling the shape, I forced myself to only partially draw each form leaving your eye to fill them in.


although these pieces feel more like an exercise than a finished work, I'm enjoying their cartoony-bodily-function look



once I get back to my large canvases I think these will be a big influence




it's amazing how simple they look but how difficult they were to make because my natural inclination is to neaten and finish every edge. so to leave the shapes open was challenging. in the end the ones I thought were the worst while making them, I like the best now, like these two