The Geographic :: Week Nine

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It felt really good to cart all of my panels and supplies home last week from the painting studio at school. Having all of my things nearby would enable me to paint from home. 

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I had romantic ideas about setting them out on my front deck and painting for several hours every day during spring break.

 No. 14 Cutoff and No 15. Buzzed

No. 14 Cutoff and No 15. Buzzed

And that did happen - for exactly one day and during that time it rained AND hailed. The photo above is my progress from that day, but don't let those billowy white clouds and blue skies fool you - it was a pain in the ass to even get this done because grey skies were looming directly overhead. I called it a day after applying the base coats and naming the paintings.

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I'm up to 15 paintings for the Valley Ford Series and I feel a hard stop needs to happen here.

No. 1 - Dry (18 x 24 x 1 inch canvas)
No. 2 - Underneath (11 x 14 inch cotton canvas panel) - the panel I clean my brush on
No. 3 - Blackout (18 x 24 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 4 - Remote (8 x 10 x 3/4 inch hardwood panel)
No. 5 - Escape (8 x 10 x 3/4 inch hardwood panel)

Triptych
No. 6 - Barren (8 x 8 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 7 - Sparse (8 x 8 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 8 - Empty (8 x 8 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)

Triptych
No. 9 - Breathe (6 x 12 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 10 - Shift (6 x 12 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 11 - Pause (6 x 12 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)

No. 12 - Lush (36 x 48 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 13 - Parched (48 x 48 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 14 - Cutoff (48 x 48 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)
No. 15 - Buzzed (48 x 48 x 1.5 inch hardwood panel)

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I kept waiting for a break in the weather, but it rained pretty consistently the first part of the week, even flooding the roads into and out of Valley Ford mid-week. When it did stop raining, the winds picked up. I finally had to just set up a makeshift painting space in my husband's garage, which was less than ideal for me. 

It was cold and dark in there. The lighting cast shadows and there was a thick layer of dust and sawdust on most of the surfaces, but I pushed through and just go to it. My lofty goal of painting everyday was going to slip away if I didn't just start. So I did.

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Because I was so agitated and uncomfortable in this new set-up, it really tapped into how I used to feel when I was drinking. I never could find my happy place and I would often let my mood spill onto others. This week, I was conscious of this fact and compartmentalized this agitation and just channeled it into the work.

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I'm struggling with color mixing. It's never been my strong suit and yet it is so freaking important in order to make an interesting, in depth painting full of range and color values. I'm working on this and have a new idea to help me in this regard.

After talking with a fellow painter, she encouraged me to try doing a landscape with one color and change the values within that painting. I liked the idea and will try to do a landscape only using the color pink. 

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Pink has a significant meaning within my paintings. My mom is one of six girls. I grew up in a house that had a living room filled with pink + white striped furniture, which I rejected at the time as too girly. I vowed never to have pink in my house when I grew up (careful about the never statements, right?). There is a phrase in recovery called The Pink Cloud and I'm pulling from that phrase to symbolize the emotional high that you can be on in the early days of sobriety. I also started wearing hot pink once I got sober and using it in my artwork. When I first wore it or used it in my art, It felt like I finally wanted to be seen. Now it's just become a part of my visual vocabulary and identity. It's an important color to me and my work.

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I'm working with a fellow abstract artist, Kaylan Buteyn, to help me create an artist statement for my upcoming show. We had our first online meeting on Friday and a lot of what she said resonated with me. A lot of what she said resonated because it was also the very things my professor has been saying to me, too. I went back and found my professor's notes and put them together with Kaylan's comments and realized I needed to start taking their advice or prompts and ask myself harder questions about my choices having to do with this body of work.

My work is appearing a bit flat and kind of boring. I don't really show up in the paintings, meaning my style or my perspective isn't in them at all. I've been so careful with this series of paintings because they are so freaking large and I don't want to mess them up. I need to really show up for myself in the work and say what it is I'm trying to say using whatever tools necessary.

After my call with Kaylan, I grabbed two small paintings that I already knew i wanted to draw on, and dipped my calligraphy pen and nib into black india ink and just drew what I love to draw - circles. My sleeve caught the last circle and smeared it. I was bummed. Oh, well. it's messy. My sleeve forced me to get messy and I think that's what needed to happen.

I'm tackling the rest of the work with a renewed mindset and returning to the question(s):

What Am I Holding Back? And, Why?

I'm not giving myself over to these paintings yet and I know it. I can literally see that I'm not and, therefore, I can also feel that I'm not giving them my all. It could be fear of failure or that I'm having second thoughts about being so tell-all about my story. It could also be that this is a vulnerable place for me in regards to my sobriety and splashing it across these four feet by four feet canvases is laying me bare, so to speak. I need to insert my true self in here with the work, but I have a little trepidation about doing so.

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I think my foray into adding the concentric circe motif to a few of the paintings is a great first step, especially since I have such affinity for the shape of a circle. For me, it symbolizes me returning to myself and becoming whole again once I put down the booze. A full circle represents the coming back together after I broke the circle of trust with my husband and family, too. The circle has always been a thing I've drawn my entire adult life, but tucked it away or hid it because I thought it was too pedestrian or simple to be "real" art. I need to dig into my feelings around this shape and why I return to it again and again. 

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I think I need to be able to paint how I feel and not how I think I "should" paint. I'm sure this was the work all along, but I can only see it right now.

 April 2017 - Painting how I draw exercise to release my inner perfectionist.

April 2017 - Painting how I draw exercise to release my inner perfectionist.

My professor once asked me why I don't paint like I draw in my journals and I didn't have a good  answer for her. I don't have one right now, but I'm going to think long and hard about this question and circle back to the work and see if I can use my visual vocabulary found in my journals and sketchbooks to help me with the next phase of my project.

I want my work to look like I've made it.
I want my style to shine through.
I want to paint out of intuition and quit overthinking everything. 

I know I need to bolster my confidence in this aspect of my creative life.

This is the work on top of the actual painting work right now.