On the blog...

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.

September 8, 2015

The Daily Grind

I like to keep a pretty organized workspace to help me stay on track. 

I have a love/hate relationship with routine.

Here are the ones I love:

My time alone in the morning making my smoothie.
Watching Frasier reruns in bed with Johnny every night.
Cleaning and organizing every Monday because it's my day off. (I really do like it!)

Here are the ones I hate:

Grocery shopping every Monday.
Brushing and flossing before bed. (but I still do it!)
Putting away the dishes and laundry.

I hate routines because they feel so....well, routine. It's not for fun anymore. Like when you're a kid and you actually really want to brush your teeth. Yet I know I am a person who kind of needs a routine otherwise I can be all over the place and that leaves me feeling so unproductive. Being self employed it would be so easy to stay in bed til 10, get dressed whenever i felt like it, and head out to meet with friends. This is especially why I need a routine.

Even though I don't have anyone who could fire me, I still make sure I have an agenda to hold myself accountable to. I personally give myself deadlines and schedules. I keep a great big calendar near my desk that is full of color coordinated post-its with project plans. The alarm is set every night. My to do list for the next day is jotted down somewhere I can clearly see. I know if I didn't give myself this kind of discipline I would do everything sometime tomorrow. Always tomorrow. I'm also really good at starting things next week.

That's not to say I don't stray from my calendar more times than I should, but I at least have some kind of boundary to give myself to keep me on track. Whenever I do miss a day, that just means I have to kick butt a little bit more the next day. It's actually a goal of mine to have a tighter routine. Believe it or not, keeping a predictable routine for myself makes it so much easier for my muse to come visit when she does. It's like I'm giving myself space and time completely dedicated for painting. That always feels like a reward.

September 4, 2015

Getting Back On The Wagon

Beginnings are nice, but they can also be so hard. I'm feeling like this when it comes to painting. Its been 4 months (!!!) since I've last done a painting. I can't even believe that. Just from having such a busy summer and being without a studio for a couple of months, painting kind of got put to the side.

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. -Pablo Picasso 

So now, I find myself needing to figure things out again. It's kind of the same feeling as when you don't work out for months and you have to try and focus and get back into it. I have to find a way to settle my mind and just get lost in my art. Meditating and yoga always seem to put me in the right frame of mind. Two things that have also fallen to the way side.

One thing I know for sure from having been in this position before, I just have to work through this feeling and not just sit around until I feel like painting. Pushing through the stagnation is quickest way to get to the other side of it. So here I go.

September 2, 2015

Every Artist Should Have One Of These

I knew the second I moved into my studio I really wanted to have a great big table to work on right in the middle of the room. This space was definitely going to be most importantly utilized as my work area and not just a showroom. I wanted to stay true to that. So I just kind of mentioned to Johnny the idea I had for a table hoping he could add it somewhere on his really long list of projects he has to do that never ends. Lucky for me, I get special privileges being his wife and I didn't have to wait very long. <Insert huge smiley emotican here> There are definitely perks to having a husband that can pretty much build anything.

Now I was just thinking of something really rough. Something I could set all of my supplies on without needing extra folding tables. I really didn't care what it looked like. He could use scrap wood for all I cared as long as it was big. Around 4' x 8'. Johnny being Johnny, he can't do anything half-assed so I got this amazing table that is better than I would have ever asked for. It's almost too nice. I don't want to get paint on it!

Im so grateful for it because I've always wanted something like this and it just inspires me to start on new things. I love seeing all of my supplies laid out in front of me, yet still plenty of surface to work on. I owe him big time!