On the blog...

November 12, 2015

Making It Work For Me

 Oh. My. Goodness. It is windy here in Milwaukee today! I keep thinking the rattling windows of this 100+ year building are going break with the gusts. Winter weather make it hard to be productive sometimes because I just want to be curled up in comfy warm pj's under a blanket watching what's on my DVR. And the limited light plays tricks with my mind making me think it's time for bed at 7:30pm.

I've been kind of changing my schedule this week to adjust to this weather and light situation. I'm finding that it works for me. I've been heading to my studio before sunrise and just throwing myself into painting right way. Before reading emails or checking instagram and snapchat. I guess I am kind of a morning person because I have no trouble getting right into it. It's quiet and I'm much more productive this way. Rather than spending my morning with errands and such and then trying to start painting in the afternoon after everything else is done. By that time it's hard for me to switch gears and paint.

Painting and is a huge priority for me so why shouldn't it be first in my schedule?

November 11, 2015

Time And Space

In an interview I just recently read, artist Aida Tomescu gives seven life lessons for artists. Although I could relate to everything she said as if she were speaking to me, I'm currently learning how to really put to practice #4; Time Is The Essential Ingredient To A Good Painting. She speaks of how another artist, Ken Wisson, will turn his paintings to the wall for months before turning them back. Also, how she needs to be surprised by her paintings.

I never really thought of time as an ingredient but it really is something that should be on my supply list or my to do list always. I would probably also add space to that. (Time and space, hmmm I guess I did need physics in high school.) It's kind of like when you end a relationship where things were pretty intense and you don't even know how it all started because it all went so fast. So you say the dreaded, "I just need time...and space." Then six months go by and one day you are reminded of that relationship. You look back and things are a lot clearer to you. You either see it as a fond memory, one you detest or one you just want to erase from your memory forever.

I guess that's what happens with a painting when I step away from it for a while and move on from it. Time and space help me see it more clearly. The good thing with oils is you do kind of have to let them dry a little in between all of your layers, so I'm kind of forced to let it go for a while.

I thought I was done with this abstract maybe two paintings ago, but every time I looked at it again I would change my mind. I went from liking it to "damn this painting!" to "it's not so bad" to "oh! I really love it now!". Whew!

So here I am. Not painting any crows right now, but listening. Listening to my gut, my intuition, that voice inside.

Oh yes, and like everyone else. I'm listening to Adele as well. 

November 10, 2015

Rita Got Her Groove Back

I am definitely getting back into my painting groove. The last time I spoke to you I was feeling pretty stumped and suffering from a severe case of painters block. The moving of studios, some family health issues and just pressure I was putting on myself were overwhelming me and getting in the way of the flow. A much needed pow-wow with a good friend helped me change my perspective and showed me things under a rosier light.

Aaaaand I've been using oil paints for the first time! I LOVE them! They are everything I was hoping they would be. Fluid and buttery and mmmm the smell. They have their own challenges, like making sure you don't get muddy, but they are so wonderful to work with. I do, however, still like acrylics for different reasons. Sometimes I do need my paints to dry a little faster especially for collaging and photo transferring. If you haven't tried oil paints and are a little scared, don't be! You will wonder why you waited so long.

September 30, 2015

Letter From Terry

Photo by: Yellow Suitcase Studio (2012)

I'm not gonna lie. It's been kind of difficult coming on to my website so share my artwork lately. Since I've been away from painting for a couple of months it has been so difficult to jump back in, but not because I haven't put in my time. I'm going through this cycle of painting for hours at a time, liking what I do, seeing it the next day, hating it and then gessoing it. I've done this for 3 weeks now. Even the paintings that are pretty nice just don't feel like me. I really feel like I have forgotten how to paint. I'm like someone who's gone off of their workout routine all summer and is now completely out of shape, but trying to run a marathon.

"I really feel like I have forgotten how to paint."

It's so discouraging and heartbreaking. I had everything I needed; new paint, a great easel, a wonderful studio, my favorite boards, everything.

Photo by: Yellow Suitcase Studio (2012)

I decided to email my friend and mentor Terry even though I was really scared to open up to anyone about this. He had just emailed me photos of his last trip, so I took the opportunity to reply about them and express how I had been struggling in the studio trying hard to not come off as a babbling cry baby that I felt like inside. This is what he replied:

Rita, I find taking these trips to be a source for refreshment. I'm not looking at what I photograph, or even see, as subject matter but for flow. I wrote in the van Gogh Journals that walking in nature was a healing place for a Vincent. Somehow I think I absorb the space of a place. Whether its the Burren Mountains with its gray boulders splattered with golden yellow lichen lying on the green grass of the fields under a clear blue sky that floats over a faraway sea, or the Badlands near Deadwood, where rocks are ocher yellow and in some places pink red and the ghosts of the dead Indians and miners sing with the wind that blows through the Ponderosa pines are what fill me with wonder. It's all one earth that flows through me and then on to canvas. It's a revelation, a gift. However gifts have to be unwrapped to be enjoyed.
I find in nature that chaos and pattern  are essential;  nothing is really random. Walking through the woods or on the ridges of mountain tops, or through valleys alongside rivers and streams is soothing. I'm a landscape painter, but not the kind who looks at it and then tries to duplicate what's in front of me. I try to paint the feeling of what the land gives me. Recently, I have been blessed to capture the rawness of the Irish coast and the Black Hills of Dakota and the Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin. In the past it was the Shenandoah of Virginia, the flat farmlands of eastern Pennsylvania and Maryland and Provence in Southern France.
Maybe you need to come back and do a workshop with me. Remember the principal tenant of my approach to teaching painting is to free oneself from conscious thought. Let the universe reveal to you what needs to be painted. Give up control, dance, listen to crickets in the grass, breath, relax and something will come. Force won't work, worry won't either. Listening to nature can clear the mind of the useless clutter that causes us confusion. Painting requires us to be in a space that frees us from distraction. When we are alone in the cathedral that is when we are closest to the Divine.
When I read this I just had tears in my eyes because I not only felt understood, but it was such an eye opener for me. I realized how far away I had gotten from that intuition and spirit that you need in order to open yourself up to creativity. I was so glad I shared my struggle and so I'm going back to where my abstract painting began, leaving the thoughts behind and just hopefully getting lost in some painting. I'll be spending some time with Terry at Center Avenue Studios. I will let you know how it goes...

September 18, 2015

Modern Rebels

Berkeley No. 54 by Richard Diebenkorn

Here in Milwaukee we were lucky to have an amazing exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Van Gogh to Pollock : Modern Rebels shows paintings from the Albrecht-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York that range in 20th century artists such as Vincent van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Frida Kahlo (!!),  Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. There were 68 artists, paintings, sculptures and even a video of Jackson Pollock painting and talking about his process, which was such a nice touch. That should almost be a requirement for every artist show.

I've had many friends describe to me their experiences when coming face to face with artwork they love and admire. Some have told me they cried, actually I've seen some cry, and others just say they couldn't step away from a certain painting. I've even heard one artist say he got an erection the first time he saw a painting by his favorite artist. Wait did I just say that? Yes. Yes, I did. I know!! It's a little bizarre, but I've known people to have strong reactions to art and I have to admit I didn't always quite get that. I wasn't sure that I could ever be so moved by a painting that I would cry.

Then I saw Willem de Kooning's painting. And then Richard Diebenkorn's. And I understood.

First of all, it's unbelievable that I get to see any of these paintings in person, but when I saw these two paintings it was like being drawn in by hypnotism. Everything around me just disappeared and I just got lost in the layers and layers of paint. Lost in the story of the artist in his studio making his marks on canvas. At one point I realized I wasn't breathing and my heart was racing. It was then that I understood. I'll never forget it. I think I memorized every stroke of paint, because I was so drawn in.

Willem de Kooning

You know, the sad part was this feeling of disbelief that I had when I realized I could not take these paintings home. I loved them so much I couldn't imagine not having them. It was almost too hard to accept. I had to laugh at myself, because of how I felt. 

I may have seen most of these paintings in books or online, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing compared to seeing them in person. It is no comparison. There's only a couple days left of the exhibition and I just know I have to go back. There is no doubt in my mind my reaction will be the same.

September 15, 2015

A New (to me) Easel

New art supplies are always fun to get. Somehow they make you believe you are going to make art that is so much better because of it. Sometimes you need this materialistic pep to get you going. I just recently bought a new to me easel that I love so much! (You can find it here) I'm used to painting right on the wall, but now that I have less wall space I thought I could use a nice sturdy easel to paint on. Thanks to Terry, I got one at an amazing deal! But there is just one problem with it.

It's too clean! I don't like anything too brand new looking or clean in my studio. Then it feels too precious. Like I'm not supposed to get paint on it or something. For example, my new table. I'm so afraid to wreck it! However, for the easel, I've cracked that egg quickly and was excited to just be painting on it.

When I had my studio in Terry's building, he let me use one of his easels and I just love seeing the years of thick paint that had dripped on it, the beautiful color palette he used and the energy of the strokes that were flung on it.  I have a long ways to go before mine will look like his, but I look forward to the journey.