Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Rising Tide - Infringement and Evolution of an Idea

Have you ever had an idea just hit you?  For me, it seems to happen while in the car (or less conveniently, right before I am about to fall asleep).  I really enjoy long road trips because of this phenomenon.  I find my mind is focused yet wandering freely.  This spring, I had one of those long road trips to head up north to help my mother through a surgery.  I was looking forward to the time alone on the road as I was hoping for a few good ideas to rise to the top.  And indeed many ideas came.  One in fact hit me so viscerally, I found my cheeks wet with tears, so moved by the image in my own head.  

You see, not only was I trying to sort out ideas for potential works of art, but also my mind was trying to sort out general life stuff too.  I have a friend, who at the time was in such a deep, dark, depressive place.  I had been watching her sink further and further into this pit and I felt powerless - I very much wished I could save her.  But I realized in that solitary moment, speeding along the freeway, that everything that I had been doing, that I thought was helping may have actually been enabling the depression further.  In that moment, I realized that she herself must first want to stop the sinking.  It was a hard realization because in a sense it meant that I was letting go.  And what if she just free-fell further?  With all those thoughts came an image.  An image so strong, so powerful and so clear.  I felt so much relief in that image.  It so well articulated the conundrum in which I found myself.  Later I was so proud of this image, this flash in my mind's eye, that I started to describe it to artist friends.  They agreed that it was a very powerful image and would make a hell of a painting.  I couldn't wait to get to the studio, to hire models and get moving on the painting before that flash faded.

I spent several weeks with two hired models (a splurge!), working out compositional drawings and starting the underpainting for what was going to be a break through piece for me.  I had so much energy and enthusiasm.  And it was going well.  Surprisingly, the image with difficult poses was actually physically possible for the models to hold and it was all coming together.  I decided this painting would be one that I would include in an important exhibition whose deadline was fast approaching.  At this time, I was also teaching two workshops which needed my attention. I begrudgingly took time away from the easel, looking though all my teaching materials, trying to organize hand outs for the students when in the back of one of my binders I saw an image.  It was my image... but wait... how?... wait no... that's not my paint.  What the hell?!  Oh no.  

Back when I was a student myself, one of my professors had recommended that I look at an artist's work and she handed me a printout of one of the artist's paintings.  I hadn't seen that image for fifteen years, and yet here my brain had leached it out and let me believe it was my own this whole time?!  I instantly hated myself.  But I still loved the image.  The peace that it had brought me in dealing with my friend was so palpable.  After much wrestling and yes, more crying, it became clear that I couldn't continue with the painting.  I tortured myself - questing all that I am, spiraling into my own depths.  But my response to my friend's situation was still an honest jumping off point.  I could still use those feelings as a place to find a new image.  It was heartbreaking to give up on this thing that had become so real, so empowering for me but it was so very necessary to let it go, lest I perpetually hate myself and this work. 

I took a break from the models and went back to writing and sketching to gather my thoughts.  From this kernel of an idea, came what I hope is an even more potent image.  More potent perhaps because it includes only one figure.  I realized that the other figure (that was to symbolize myself in the relationship) was not necessary and in fact may have been muddying up the idea by adding an element of my own hero complex or narcissism at the least.  Also water crept into this new image as a force of both benevolence as well as potential harm.  I loved that duality.  This painting came fast, on it's own new and bigger, untainted panel.  I re-hired one of the original models and worked it all out in about three weeks.  

Rising Tide depicts a woman lying on her back in shallow water.  She is at that moment of choice.  Is she going to pull on the red cloth (which comes in from an unknown source at the top) to be able to easily rise out of the waters?  Will she let the tide slowly rise to consume her, or will she simply let go?  I also had the aphorism "A rising tide lifts all boats" in mind while working on this painting.  I find this aphorism very apt since this painting was going into this year's Women Painting Women exhibition at Principle Gallery.  I do believe that all the efforts that we have been making through Women Painting Women has had a great impact - in a sense raising the awareness for all great figurative painting and certainly raising the level of recognition for women figurative painters.         

Rising Tide, oil on panel, 34" x 54" 2013

Rising Tide, detail
This painting was featured on the cover of the WPW: (R)evolution exhibition catalog which can be purchased HERE.  Thank you to Matter Deep Publishing for the honor!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Chase vs Sargent

A wonderful corner of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Recently, I was able to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  If you haven't yet seen the new American wing, you really need to make the trip.  It's well worth the effort.  While there, I took a moment to sit in front of two favorite artists' works that happened to be displayed side by side - William Merritt Chase's Lady in Black and John Singer Sargent's famous Madame Gautreau.  

As they are hung right next to each other it's hard not to make comparisons.  Even the wall placard notes how Chase's composition seems to quote Sargent's, perhaps especially with the placement of the table.  I sat there for quite sometime doing a thumbnail sketch of the beautiful Lady In Black.  As I drew, I found more and more points of comparison.  Now, it is not my intention to upset any Sargent fans. I am indeed quite a fan myself - but I have to say in my humble opinion, the Chase painting is the more interesting portrait.  Madame X has become such an icon for artists in realist art circles, so perhaps my favoring Chase's work has more to do with my propensity to root for the seeming underdog?  I'm not sure, but I will try to remain as objective as possible.

John Singer Sargent, Madame Gautreau (aka Madame X), oil on canvas, 82 1/8 x 43 1/4 in, 1883-84

Sargent's painting of Madame X,  with her pinched waist, evening attire and averted gaze, doesn't allow us to witness her full personality.  We surely understand her status in life, but beyond that not much else is offered.  (I must note that as a figurative artist I totally understand his choice in painting her head turned to the side.  Who wouldn't want to paint that stunning profile?!  This perhaps accounts for the averted gaze).  We instead are shown the pomp and circumstance of an elite's commissioned portrait.  Even Mme X's feet are softly absorbed into shadow, further obscuring personal identity.  Because of this, I find the Chase work a more honest and to my contemporary taste, a more appealing depiction.  In Lady in Black we are presented with a woman (Ms. Marietta Benedict Cotton) who is more humble in her attire and confronting with her gaze.  She stands solidly grounded with one foot in light.  There is little apprehension or coyness to her gaze.  Though her gown is surely not today's casual, it does seem more reserved or down to earth.  Even the polish of her skin is not overly smooth, soft or pasty as Mme. X's seems.  The paint itself has more action, more color, and is overall more interesting.

William Merritt Chase, Lady in Black, oil on canvas, 74 1/4 x 36 5/16 in, 1888

Perhaps, the Chase work resonates because it is more approachable, more easily accessible, depicting a class that I am closer to understanding.  Or perhaps its more that I enjoy seeing a portrait that shows more of the character of an individual, not just the surface characteristics.  My husband argues that because of the averted gaze, the Mme. X painting is more enigmatic, is more open to being read as story.  While the first one reads as an honest depiction of an individual.  His point is well taken here.  I understand neither is wrong or makes for lesser of a painting.

Placed together, these two paintings evoke much thought and emotion. I look forward to returning to visit these two wonderful paintings again soon.  Let me know what you think?  Do you favor one more than another?

Here's the little sketch I did with a few random notes that I jotted down as well:
-note that there are more reds in the flesh of "Lady" 
-note the balance of edges up and down the figure:
left shoulder has soft edge - right shoulder hard
left sleeve hard edge - right sleeve soft
-note that the perspective of the table is off, but less awkward than the table leg meeting up with the corner of the composition in the Mme. X painting. 

Thanks for having a read.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Well here is a cheap post for you... as in I feel like I'm kinda cheating here by just linking my newsletter.  But, there is a bunch of information all together in one place.  I hope you will take a minute to read all the wonderful news that I have coming up.  Click the image below.

You can sign up HERE if you are interested in receiving my newsletters in your Inbox.  Thanks and happy almost spring!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life has gotten the better of me

Well, life has been going at warp speed these days.  As such, I've neglected this good ol' blog a bit.  As a brief update for things to look forward to - please make sure you check out the sidebar for upcoming exhibitions.  I hope to be able to see you at one of these events.  Also, I thought I would post some info on some upcoming classes I'll be teaching.  Please contact Artspace to register.

Intro to Oil Painting
, Raleigh, NC

5 Mondays, June 3, 10, 17, 24, & July 8 2013
This introductory course will cover the basic topics of oil painting while also reviewing drawing fundamentals. The student will explore painting materials and techniques, basic color theory and color mixing, as well as the interaction of visual elements and various approaches to painting. Using simple still life set-ups, we will explore concepts of value and tone and warm and cool color relationships. This will be a fun way to learn many different techniques and safe practices of oil painting. Supply list will be provided upon registration.

Contemporary Portrait Painting
Artspace, Raleigh, NC

5 Wednesdays, June 19, 26, July 10, 17 & 24 2013
6:30pm - 9:30pm
Learn to create an accurate, dynamic portrait in oil as you capture the features of your model. Working from short to long poses, you will study structure, color-mixing strategies, and application techniques for creating lively skin tones and animated expressions. Supply list will be provided upon registration.

201 E. Davie St. Raleigh, NC 27601
Now, back to preparing for my upcoming solo exhibition...