Friday, September 25, 2015

Here we go....GUILT!

One year ago I quit my job as curator of the Gallery at Carrollwood Cultural Center in order to work on the eleventh painting in the Feeling Series. I worked steadily on the set up of the various props and furniture that I wanted for the painting and you can see the result below. I have had a few comments, like "I don't see guilt here", and why is there a gun in it" and "what's with the suitcases and handbags", "I don't get it", and "this painting is so different from the others". My answer is that this painting is about my feelings about guilt, presented symbolically. Having worked my way through so much of it during my lifetime; it feels like a chaos of baggage and failures, hurts both given and received, and the myriad layers of perceptions of guilt ranging from my role as a white person in a rarefied society, to my addictive personality, to many decisions I have made in my life that are not appropriate to discuss here!

This is a photograph of Guilt as it is set up in my studio. Much of my time over the past year has been trying to figure out how best to manage the workflow in my studio, with two Sundays a month given over to Painting For Fun, where I have as many as 9 people in the studio wandering around, and other students and projects that require a reorganization of the space. Many of these paintings reuse props that appear in other paintings and one prop that I wanted to use was the buffet table that was my mother's that I used in Fear and Shame

And I also knew from the start that this painting would be 48 x 48 and that alone creates a space management problem. I will have to stow the painting in my bedroom or office when I am not working on it. I wanted to use the best canvas I could afford which was Claessen's Belgium Linen, double oil primed. It is glorious to look at and feel! But very difficult to stretch and so I had a test canvas that looked horrible and it was not suitable at all. So I asked P.J. Draper at AOE Artworks, in Temple Terrace, if she could stretch it for me. She agreed to do it, and I was thrilled at what she was able to do, after much hand wringing and difficulties for her as well. The canvas was finished in early August, and I must admit that I have felt some Guilt, on and off, as it sat in the closet of my office, while I got ready to dive into the painting phase of the painting, which was very scary. 

After quite a lot of back and forth in my mind, I finally decided that this painting would be worked on a toned ground. Classical painters call this Imprimatura. The definition, thanks to Wikipedia, is:

Imprimatura is a term used in painting, meaning an initial stain of color painted on a ground. It provides a painter with a transparent, toned ground, which will allow light falling onto the painting to reflect through the paint layers. 

I learned to do this technique in a series of workshops with Aaron Shikler in the 1990s in Connecticut. How fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to be able to study with him at Lyme Academy of Fine Arts in Old Lyme, Connecticut. My other training was with Robert Brackman who worked the Impressionist style on a white canvas. The toned ground requires some special techniques that I do not normally employ, and the last painting I did in this manner was in 2001 when I finished Fear, just before I moved to Florida. So that is why I said it was very scary to cover that pristine white canvas with Burnt Sienna and Rectified Turpentine, which I am allergic to!

See what I mean? All that pristine white is about to be covered with a slop of burnt sienna and turps. Oh my!!!

Half done


I also use a process I may have conceived (well I am SURE other artists have done something similar) that I call an overlay. Basically this amounts to a huge time saver when working on a portrait or complex painting that requires hours and hours of tedious drawing. My life is no longer one of leisure to fiddle for hours to get perspective just right and proportion figured out, so the overlay becomes an essential ingredient of my work these days. I do know how to draw! I teach it, for heaven's sake, but I am not so good to hit it correctly on the first, or even 10th try, so the overlay cuts time and makes my work more accurate. It requires a photograph that is blown up to be the same size as the canvas, in this case 48 x 48. I print the photo using Publisher which will tile the print out, and I had 15 images to paste together to make one big photo! Clear .5 mil overlay film is then put over the enlarged photo and traced with a felt tip pen. The overlay is then put over the toned canvas and transferred. When the painting is underway the progress can be checked for mistakes by putting the overlay over the painting to check for drawing errors. It is just so nifty.

I am holding a 48 x 48 foam board that contains my photograph of Guilt over which there is a clear plastic film that I call an overlay. I am tracing with an Identipen those little details in the lace cloth. Yeah, I know...a little obsessive and complusive, for sure. But it surely saves a lot of time in the end and helps the visual confusion when painting because it is so hard to make your brain go back and forth from canvas to the still life set up, over and over until you are crazy.

As work progresses I plan to add entries here on my blog as I did with Awe. It was a nice record to have and I must admit that I found myself referring back to it several times. So, stay tuned! More is about to come.

As an aside, I realize it has been months since I last posted work on my blog. I have quite a few paintings that I have completed during the summer and soon I will have them posted on my blog. I have put most of them on my website, but they are scattered over several places and it is more convenient to view them here. I will be posting them soon.