Husby and I are in the midst of packing, house-hunting, and life-dreaming, so I haven't been doing much making. It's hard to feel productive in the laboratory (my studio/2nd apartment bedroom) when it is full of boxes.
Dave's birthday was last week (YAY!!!) and what better motivation could there be than making some gifts for my lovey? He had been looking for a "dog backpack" after watching some Dog Whisperer. Dave really likes to watch Dog Whisperer--he liked it long before we had Starfox, and I used to find three-episode-long DVDs at the Dollar Store for him to watch during the time we got rid of the internet at home.
So, when Dave read that "Cesar developed his Dog Backpack because he realized many dogs do not have 'jobs.' This leaves them bored, unfulfilled, and acting out. Cesar’s Dog Backpack helps solve this problem by giving dogs a job!" you basically have to get a dog backpack. But seriously--$59.99?
I found this great instructable on how to make a Cooling Vest for a dog out of some old cargo pants, so I whipped out the ol' sewing machine and fashioned a sporty little number for the pup.
I presented the backpack to Dave as a birthday present (along with a human backpack of his own, a subscription to Netflix, and this epic website). Starfox loves wearing the pack--I put some sandwich bags full of sand in the cargo pockets, so the pup gets a good workout when Dave takes him for a run with the longboard or I take him for a run with my running shoes. All in all it was a really easy, cheap project. I spent $2 on thrift store cargo pants, and both my Hub and my Pup got a nice gift out of it!
I've been experimenting with encaustic paints the past few days, and let me tell you, learning a new medium is frustrating. I find myself trying to use the paints in the same ways I use acrylics instead of embracing the material and allowing myself to discover its strengths and limitations.
Encaustic paints are made of beeswax and pigment (oil paint). To use them, the paint must be melted and applied while hot. My initial attraction to this material is the ability to create a sense of depth through the layering of translucent and semi-transparent waxes; I also like that items can be embedded in the surface of the wax. Last year I began adding feathers, leaves, bones, insects, and other dead things into my paintings by suspending each object in clear epoxy, but it was difficult to visually integrate the shiny, smooth surface of the epoxy with my rather grungy paintings. I think the wax could be a better way to incorporate these kinds of elements.
I read a book on encaustic techniques, but in the end I did what I normally do--I jumped in without really have any clue of what to do. So, no surprise, my first attempt was a huge failure. I ended up making a small painting that looked sort of like what I normally would do with acrylics, except way worse. It was a waxtastrophe.
One incredible thing about these paints are that if you mess up, you can take the wax right off of your painting surface and melt the encaustic medium back down and use it again. I grabbed a knife, scraped all of the wax off of my failure painting and into a pancake griddle, melted it all back together, mixed in some oil paint for color, and started making monoprints. A lot of monoprints. Enjoy.
Every summer in Boulder, CO, artists across the city would open their studios to the community and share their work space with anyone who was interested. My mom and dad would get a catalog and map of participating artists from the local library, and we would spend entire days watching painters create new works (and munching on the endless array of free pretzels and cookies).
Many artists created in their homes, but the most exciting stops were huge warehouses with studio space for rent. Here dozens of artists pinned paperworks to the walls or straddled a massive canvass across two easels, each person's space separated with standard gray pop-up tables spattered in color and brushes. I had never seen such a large workspace or such large paintings before, and I wanted to make some too.
I still remember certain artists from those studios (which I visited over eight years ago). Even then the pieces that struck me were the color-driven, abstract, atmospheric canvasses set as welcoming arms for a collapsing spirit--the type that when you stand before the work in flat-footed attention, several paces from the canvass, the tip of your nose seems to involuntarily inch towards the paint as if to draw ever-so-near to the energy of color.*
My aspirations have always been in huge-scale color-field work, but my "studio space" (random house corner, kitchen floor, desk, spare room, etc.) has limited me to small and mid-scale works. Recently I've been tacking pieces of unstretched canvass on the wall of our apartment (on top of a bunch of tacked-up garbage bags of course) and just going to town on it. These two new works are the next step of my adventure towards making massive works.
I love painting in this scale. The frugal woman in me takes over some times and laments the cost of supplies to create these larger works, but my artist "side" is much stronger and always wins out (with a bit of compromise--some of the background colors are from a dumpster full of finger paint). My gestures and lines can be so much more expressive and loose, and I can still crawl into detailed texture and layering without the effect being the focal point; this is an issue I struggled with when working on a small scale with textural elements.
In my Siostra Adelphos project the scale of the works were so small that the textures became a focal point, and I enjoy achieving the opposite in the larger pieces I'm creating now. The textural elements are more cohesive to the whole and complement the composition rather than instructing it.
Another large painting is on the wall now and will be completed soon.
* Footnote: years later in Pittsburgh, when coming face-to-face with my first Motherwell and, fixed on the adjacent wall, my first Clyfford Still, this sensation of magnetism through the work collided with me like a freighter, and in my memory this event occurred with an actual physical shockwave and stumble backward from my eyes treading on such sacred visual ground; this surely is not the case, and in the reality of that moment I believe that I began to cry, and as my family entered the room I was embarrassed by my sudden emotional reaction to the vision of God in these two paintings. I quickly made off with a sarcastic comment and snarky smile at my younger brother, and we continued through the collection. This remains one of the most spiritual experiences in my life.
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