Thursday, January 28, 2010

“Colour is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.” —Claude Monet

It seems like FOREVER that I am in start up on the latest painting in the Lower Haight series, the bathroom at Toronado. I really thought that this was going to be an easy, fun painting. I laid in the initial color and composition and then got stuck. I guess this is similar to what they call writers block.

I suddenly did not know where I was going. My normal way of painting is to get the under colors in and then start bringing up the actual paint. In this case I found that the under color or lay in worked. Not a usual experience, and luckily I had mixed a huge amount of that color (which now lives in the studio refrigerator… it’s like gold).

Unlike oils that you can walk away from and come back to on your palette the next day, acrylic is fast drying. If you want to keep the acrylic colors that you have mixed you can cover in plastic wrap and either store in the fridge or freezer. Just remember to let it warm back up when you bring it out again – the original consistency and color will be usable as if just mixed.

What is a palette? Well, any surface that the artist uses to mix the colors on/ transfer paint from. Many artists working in oils use an old windowpane, for acrylic I use plastic (the same one I have been using for, well more years that I care to say – college days – so I guess I am being “green”?). Wood can also be used, but it tends to not be slick and soaks in the color.

On a sentimental note, I keep my Dad’s wood palette in my studio with me… I love looking at the paint stains that he made in the 1950’s when he was working in oil doing abstracts.

Back to the painting. Today I decided that opera just wasn’t going to get me moving on the colors, so I switched to some “lets get danc’n rock”. It helped. I dug in, said to myself “forget about it, just paint… color color color!” I love it when color starts to happen, what a rush!

Color is not always obvious. Take a moment. Look around. It’s there. It can be subtle. It can be beautiful in the most unexpected places.

In the sky, on the ground, beautiful patterns and wonderful surprises are right there, waiting.

When my friend Sara shared her iPhone photos of our neighborhood (intersection of Haight and Fillmore) I was taken by the beauty of the MUNI wires. How could I pass this everyday on the way to the Studio and have missed it?

Wires are starting to disappear in our cityscape, “they say” it’s beautification, well, perhaps, but while they are still here, do not miss the urban beauty… someday soon this will be a nostalgic memory of a century past.

Here is another photo that I took of one of the few remaining above ground telephone poles in the Lower Haight.

Many artists are doing wonderful paintings that are inclusive of wires and poles. I look at these and simply go “wow”. Our urban landscape displays a natural color palette.

I did a small painting in 2009 of the Roxy Theater on 16th Street - just a fun, abstract interpretation of color. I did not think about the wires when I started it and as I was laying in the painting I realized they were so part of the view.

We also have amazing views looking down, the streets, the mundane that we pass over; there are wonderful patterns, like magnificent abstracts in steel and concrete.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The studio chair

I have been searching Craigslist and every used furniture store in town for months to find the perfect hanging out chair for the studio. I was searching for a cheap, somewhat beat-up old leather club chair, thought it would give that whole Paris artist studio feel on raining afternoons.

Then, one morning, there it was, on Craigslist - “ Ikea red chair $20.00”. I was so excited; the photo was of the same style chair that we had purchased from the Ikea in Roma for our Pz. Bologna apartment. Why was I looking for Paris, when a memory from Roma was the perfect answer? And in my budget!

Here is a photo of the same chair in Roma – with our very wonderfully tacky plastic bow-up Christmas tree (which has become a ritual that continues in San Francisco). I find myself (if I can get Taxie out of it) sitting and reflecting on the work I am doing. I love my new chair!

And in addition to finding the perfect chair, my friend Sara (and lucky me, our next door neighbor) has been coming to work in the studio with Taxie and I. It has been good to have her company, as it can sometimes feel a bit isolating to work alone.

Sara has been working on a figurative drawing that she is experimenting with, using small lines only - a bit tedious to say the least (I am in awe of her concentration!) Oh, and BTW, it is quite good; I am looking forward to seeing the finished work. As you can see in the photo, Taxie is very happy to have someone else around and is guarding Sara. That seems to be her new “job”.

I finally finished the Minnie’s Memphis Bar-B-Que painting (which Sara renamed “Ghosts of Pigs Past”… love that! See enlargement above) So, this week while Sara has been working on her drawing, I have started the next in the Lower Haight Series, the bathroom at Tornado. I have gotten the color laid in and next week the “painting” starts.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The blank canvas

I often feel like I am in the marble quarries of Michelangelo’s Carrara when I am picking canvas for my next painting. It’s a ritual, I touch the surface and I look at the wood stretchers for size. For me, it is always new and exciting. I love this part of the process.

Generally, I pick my canvas based on an idea that is away off as I am usually in the middle of another painting. I pick it out; take it to the studio and it waits, stacked up with the rest of them.

When I am close to completing a painting I start to prep the new one. This means getting the Gesso on. Gesso is the Italian word for “chalk” and has this very long and, for us painters, romantic history. It represents the beginning and the possibilities. For non-painters it is simply used for both sizing and priming the canvas.

I thought I was almost finished with the Minnie’s Bar-B-Que painting, and then it took on it’s own life (I am getting used to this) and I am nowhere near done. But, that said, I have prepped the canvas for what I think will be the next painting in the “Lower Haight” series, the bathroom at Tornado. I am looking forward to starting this new one – should be fun!

Oh, and thank you John @ Artbot Photography for posting up some of my paintings on your web page! BTW, if you are in need of having your work photographed, John’s a great guy, always responsive and easy to work with - he delivers on time.