Wednesday, May 22, 2013

At Long Last

On May 11, 2013, after 10 years of Herculean (one of my favorite words) effort, I received my undergraduate degree from Memphis College of Art. My grades were surprisingly good. I gave a speech.

It was hard to compress 10 years and a lot of emotion into a less-than-10-minute speech, but the words were well received, and the response was everything I could have hoped for.
It's amazing to think that after all this time I've finally finished. I feel dazed. I can hardly believe I really made it through to the end. I had to take a whole year off somewhere in the middle because of illness, and I was 99% certain—every single semester—that the miserable health challenges were going to put an end to my academic efforts. I'm still not sure how I managed to pull it off. I think my innate stubbornness ("do it or die trying" seems to be my mantra) is as responsible for this success as anything else. On more than one occasion, however, Stubborn Girl was only barely able to hold Sick Girl together. Thank goodness for spring, summer and holiday breaks, and a few kind and helpful people. 
Both learning new things and studying for tests are uphill climbs when you've got a cognitive system that doesn't work as it should. Throw in a wonky immune system, a constant state of exhaustion, and varying degrees of pain, and just getting out of bed and getting dressed in the morning requires so much effort that anything else frequently seems impossible. Some days it is.
There was a lot of trial and error in figuring out how to be a (good) student.  I had to work out how a person who forgets as much as I do could learn, study, and pass tests. I still forgot a lot. In studio classes, I often had to relearn techniques I'd mastered in the semesters (or sometimes just days) before. "Frustration" is such an inadequate word for what I regularly felt; the last several years have been especially difficult. 
Until the very end, I wasn't completely certain I was really going to graduate—but I did—somehow, I managed to see it through. My time at Memphis College of Art meant a lot to me. It was a formidable challenge, but I met some fabulous people and had some wonderful experiences.The triumph hasn't been without costs, unfortunately, and I'm overdue for some serious rest and recuperation, but at the moment, I'm still a very happy girl...

Show at Otherlands

My Biology series went up at Otherlands in Midtown Memphis last month, and it'll be there for a bit longer. I had a small reception and all went well.


Final Painting

The final image of my most recent painting.

 Assimilation IV, mixed media, 16x16 inches, 2013

I'm pleased with the results. I've been interested in working with planned out layers for quite some time, and though there were some twists and turns, it worked.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Recent Paintings

The last two paintings are the same, conceptually, as the previous ones, but technically, they've been experiments. I've been thinking about working in layers for awhile, so I took the materials I've been using, added a new one, and played around with them in different ways to see what kind of layering I could do.  As usual, when doing something for the first time, I got unexpected results.

This one is on panel, and has a layer of coarse molding paste, a thin pastel wash, a layer of extruded acrylic, a layer of high solid gel, collaged textile imagery, and another layer of high solid gel. It's taken a lot longer to dry than I'd anticipated.  There will be another layer of extruded acrylic on top and maybe a layer of water soluble oil after that.

still in progress, 16x16 inches

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Group show at Nu

The group show was last night. The turnout wasn't bad at all. Several friends came out, and it was great to see them and have their support.

My painting, Assimilation II, acrylic and oil on canvas, 24x18 inches

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hanging a group show

We put up our group exhibition at the Nu Gallery on Broad Avenue, today. There weren't any major hiccups, and it looks pretty good. We each have work in the show. There are thirteen of us and we all have very different styles.

Friday, April 5, 2013

BFA Piece and 2 more Biology Series Paintings

The Patterns of My Discontent, extruded acrylic and medium, water-soluble oil on canvas, 36.25x24 inches

This was the BFA piece. The capillary pattern was my favorite of the imagery I'd been using, so I used it for this one.

I have two more paintings planned.

Second Biology Series

I decided to omit the painted dresses from the previous series, choosing instead to incorporate the dress imagery in extruded lines this time around.

Assimilation I, extruded acrylic medium and water-soluble oil on
 panel, 24x18 inches

Above are two different photos of the same painting. The top one gives a slightly better idea of the color, the bottom one shows the relief of the extruded lines quite clearly. 

Once again, I've used pain neuron imagery and the color red to convey meaning. The blue is added for contrast. I used more oils in the body of this painting than in the last series.

The image above shows the third step in the 2nd painting of this series—lines of color were extruded over the drawing that had been transferred onto the coarse modeling paste background.

Next, the above image shows that more color was added using acrylic paint and hard pastels that were diluted with an acrylic wash mix.

 Assimilation II, extruded acrylic medium and paint, water-soluble oil on
 panel, 24x18 inches

A final wash of zinc white water-soluble oil paint is added on top in the above image, and after drying for a day, some of the white is scraped back off of the tops of the extruded lines.This one also has similar imagery and colors to the corresponding painting in the previous series.

Assimilation III, extruded acrylic medium and paint, water-soluble oil on panel, 24x18 inches

I changed the technique and imagery on this one, quite a bit. The imagery is still a brain neuron, but I used a different reference photo, and I changed the way I handled the extruded paint. I had difficulty in getting the color to have enough variation, so I scrubbed off a lot of it in various spots. Although it doesn't show up in the photograph, the medium that's underneath the paint has some kind of material in it that breaks up light, making the bare spots shimmer a little in bright light. This was unexpected, but not a bad thing. 

Though I began to refine my techniques in this second Biology series, the paintings are meant to convey the same ideas as the last series through similar imagery and color.

More Changes, First Biology Series

I learned a lot from the last series, but I was worn out with the dark reds, the gold powder was toxic, and the incised lines stretched my arm and shoulder muscles to their limits. I also ended up needing to finish a considerable number of paintings in a relatively small period of time, and as slowly as I paint, I knew they couldn't be large ones. I wrestled with ideas, talked to a few people, and came up with a vague direction involving clothing imagery.

Ultimately, I think I ended up falling back on the advice often given to writers, to "write what you know." I decided to paint what I know best—the effect that my broken biology has upon the way that I see myself. Identity's been a thread through a lot of my work, even going all the way back to 2005, and my early work used clothing as metaphor, so the ideas seemed to be a good fit.

I'm not sure the paintings in the next two series have to only be seen as relating to illness or fractured health, though. I believe they might be equally effective if they're thought of as conveying the way women sometimes feel...because of the media, men in their lives, or other women...about aging.

 Biology's a Bitch II, extruded acrylic medium and water-soluble oil on canvas, 24x18 inches 

So I traded one hand-scrunching technique for another. These paintings are made by putting a thick, fairly even layer of coarse modeling paste over canvas or panel and letting it dry. Next, I transfer my drawing onto the surface, using pastels. I then extrude (this is the hand-scrunching part) heavy acrylic gel medium (or a paint and heavy medium mix) onto the drawn lines. Once the extruded layer is dry, I wash over the remaining pastel with an acrylic wash mixture. If I need more color, I add small amounts of acrylic wash until I get what I want. For this painting, I painted the capillaries, as well. After the acrylic dried, I painted the dress form with water-soluble oils and then scrubbed the rest of the painting with a wash of water-soluble oils and water.  

I'm happy with the relief effect I'm getting using the extruded acrylic. I also really like the surface texture I get with the coarse modeling paste.

I'm using capillary imagery and greys and muted blues because they're related to exhaustion and fatigue. The red area implies that there's only a tiny healthy component remaining. Other colors are just used for contrast.

 Biology's a Bitch I, extruded acrylic medium and water-soluble oil on canvas, 24x18 inches

This painting was generally created in the same way as the previous one. Conceptually, I'm conveying the effect of pain, using a stylized pain neuron and the color red.  

More white oil paint was used on top of the acrylic background than in the previous one. 

Biology’s a Bitch III, extruded acrylic medium and water-soluble oils on canvas, 24x18 inches

This one was created in the same way as the others in the series. Purple was used because it's related to wisdom and intelligence. Brain neuron imagery was used because brain neurons control cognitive functions. 

Overall, I'm not unhappy with these, but the next small series loses the painted dresses, because in critique, the biological imagery came across as more important and/or more interesting, than the painted dress forms.


The First Big Change in Style

My general painting style has been called "illustrative" and regrettably, it's not been meant as a compliment. I'm a book lover who, in the past, has collected children's books just for the illustrations. I like Illustration. I never thought of what illustrators do as so very different from what painters do. Through the years, many of the artists I'd been drawn to were illustrators. I didn't realize that some painters think of illustration as a lower art form, something that can't coexist with fine art. After having been exposed to this way of thinking for awhile, I began to feel as though I should take a completely different direction with my painting, and this series is what came out of that.

Self-portrait I, acrylic, charcoal, water-soluble oil on paper, 14x11 inches

The painting above was a smallish, fairly quick (3-4 hours) test painting just to see what gold would look like in a painting. I'd been interested in using gold leaf, but wasn't sure if I could use the gold without it looking garish or as though it didn't belong. A brush was used only for the under painting. The primary image was done entirely with a palette knife, which made my painting style much looser than it had been before.

Self-portrait II, acrylic and water-soluble oil on paper, 11x14 inches

Above, another small, quick-ish painting to work on palette knife-handling skills. This one is less loose in spots than the previous one, but on the whole, I think it works. Almost all of my paintings are from photos, but I'm fairly sure this one was from life, hence the annoyed expression.

 Rumination on Disintegration in a Small Space, acrylic, metallic powder, water-soluble oil on canvas, 48x36 inches

Rumination... is the first large painting I created using metallic powder. I'd been interested in using gold leaf, but opted for a less expensive gold-colored metal powder to see what could be done with it.

My initial interest in using gold stemmed from the idea that gold represents immortality or the everlasting, since it doesn't tarnish. My other initial color choices were based on information I found during my research that talked about a specific color of deep red, historically used with gold leaf. I wasn't trying to copy the exact color, it was just a nod to the tradition.

Conceptually, I was loosely focusing on emotions related to change, the places our minds occupy in-between major life decisions, and the identities we assume in these moments. I think though, that my paintings, whether I realize it at the time or not, are often primarily about how I'm feeling when I'm painting them.

This painting was made by putting acrylic gel medium down on a gessoed canvas, spreading quinacridone crimson acrylic paint over that, and then sprinkling gold-colored metallic powder over the top and brushing it lightly to smooth the powder (with a respirator on, of course), all before it dried. Brushing over the powder sometimes lifted a "skin" of paint off, leaving darker spots. Then, I took various implements and scratched back into the paint and powder mixture while it was still wet. After the acrylic mixture dried, I painted over it in water soluble oils with a palette knife. I'd intended to allow the underpainting to show through for darker values in some of the figure and that was successful. This is my favorite large painting of the series.

Relic, acrylic, metallic powder, and water-soluble oil on canvas, 48x36 inches

Relic was made in the same way as the previous painting, using only a palette knife for the figure.  Conceptually, I was thinking about leaving something behind and trying to be open to new challenges, while feeling a bit irrelevant...maybe a reflection of my anxiety about painting in such a different way.  I'm still debating about whether to paint something into the white space. 

Lost in Transition I, acrylic, metallic powder, water-soluble oil, and ink on canvas, 48x36  inches

Lost...I was an exercise in switching gears again, although the underpainting was handled the same as the previous two. 
Conceptually, Lost...I addresses the idea of emotions and identities in flux during change.

I'd been trying to think of a way to continue in the same vein with a figure or figures without becoming repetitious. I think slowly. I'm capable of coming up with good ideas, but they rarely come quickly. The original idea for this one was sparked by a double exposed photograph I ran across that I'd taken ages ago. It occurred to me that I might be able to do something similar in a painting. I took the reference photos, did a whole lot of Photoshoppin' to get a good composition, and soon realized that I didn't have time left to paint the bodies of the figures, so I opted for line work. Once I began the line work, I worked fairly intuitively and disregarded the previous plan, completely.

I think the line work was more effective than fully painting the figures would have been in this case, because of the overlapping of the bodies. This is probably my favorite of the paintings that have line work in this series. The only thing that bothered me was the oil painted area (which is actually a dark green, rather than black). It seemed a bit overwhelming at the time.

 Lost In Transition II, acrylic and metallic powder on canvas, 48x36 inches

During a critique of the previous painting, I was cautioned not to let my figures look like E.Ts. I got a little paranoid about that, so in Lost...II, I gave the figures hair, but I think that took something significant away from the painting. I was also encouraged during the critique of Lost...I to incise lines into the paint rather than ink them, so I did this in Lost...II. Incising the lines took a lot of time and effort, and required me to alter the way I'd been painting. 

For this painting, I laid down an even layer of medium over the entire canvas and let it dry. Then I laid down a layer of paint, incised the lines into the wet paint, then put more paint and medium on top, added metallic powder on top of that, brushed the powder and incised the lines again before the the last three layers began to dry. Easier said than done. I omitted the oils entirely. Because I was working so quickly and because of the incised line placement, the gold powder went on in small streaks this time.  I used other transparent red and orange colors in this one to try to get more variation.

Conceptually, as in the previous painting, Lost...II addresses the idea of emotions and identities in flux during change.

 Lost in Transition III, acrylic and metallic powder on canvas, 48x36 inches

The ideas in Lost...III were the same as those in the two previous paintings.  Lost...III was identical stylistically identical to Lost...II.  There were some small variations in technique from the last one to this one, and in this painting, I used even more lighter, transparent paint to try to make the layers more visible. There are small areas of transparency in this painting that I like just because of variations in the paint.

Color choices (all transparent reds, oranges and yellows) for the paintings after the first 3 were the result of the realization that all paint colors did not react the same as the q. crimson with the metallic powder....something about the chemical make up, apparently.

I enjoyed painting with the palette knife for awhile. I'll probably do it again. I liked the different effects I was able to create with various layers of paint and other materials. I'm still thinking about using gold leaf in a painting or paintings, but I'll definitely need to do some tests, first.


I love curb couches. Strange, I know, but I do. They're so much more than just garbage on the side of the street to me. Couches absorb a lot of living (and who knows what else) before they're finally put out to be carried to the graveyard-of-sofas or wherever they end up. They're practically members of the family. I have a history with the curb variety.

Several years ago, I did a performance piece that included a slide show of photos I'd taken of curb couches and a poem by Thom Holcomb (who I knew from poetry nights at the Java Cabana), set to a soundtrack of Gary Jules' "Mad World" (after the music was featured in Donnie Darko, but before every TV show in the U.S. decided to use it for one episode or another). Getting so many photos of different curb couches was a daunting task. I begged friends and acquaintances to call me when they'd see one anywhere in the city, so they could give me the location and I could speed over and get a photo before the couch was carried off.  Many nice people helped me. It was a great collaborative effort. One lovely, fabulous guy...a friend of a friend, not even someone I knew really well...took me driving for hours and hours one day to odd corners of Memphis I'd never seen, and I was able to get some great shots. The whole project took a huge amount of time and effort, but I was really happy with the result when all was said and done.  It was well-received, and thinking of it still makes me smile. The people who helped me and those who saw the finished piece have told me repeatedly that every time they see a couch on a curb, they think of me. I think that's a good thing. As an artist, I like that I'm remembered as a result of a creative effort. I'm currently thinking of remaking it with more up-to-date technology.


Because of my interest in, and my history with curb couches, I thought painting couches out of their normal living room habitat was a good idea. I think couches are good metaphors for people. These paintings were made at a time when I was feeling quite isolated and lonely, but still a little hopeful, and I think they convey that. I've done two paintings and I'd like to add more to the series.

Couch I, acrylic on canvas, 36x48 inches

Couch II, acrylic on canvas, 48x36 inches

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Paris Landscapes

These were done from reference photos taken on a trip to Paris quite a few years ago. I started out with the intent to do just normal water soluble oil paintings (getting the drawing down in charcoal and then painting over it), but the effect of the buildings sketched in charcoal was intriguing enough that I ended up painting in a completely different way, leaving a lot of the charcoal visible. Large sections of the oil layer are painted thinly, and much of the acrylic under-painting is visible in both paintings. Once in awhile, a painting will lead me in a direction I'd not intended to go, but I think that can be a good thing.

Paris I, water soluble oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas, 30x24 inches

Paris II, water soluble oil, acrylic, and charcoal on canvas, 30x24 inches

Nontraditional Paint Manipulation

This nonobjective series came about when I was trying to extend my painting beyond traditional boundaries. They were done purely for the enjoyment of moving the paint around and exploring color. The paintings required a special setup and figuring exactly what was needed and how it should be made was challenging, but I persevered and worked it out. Creating them was quite fun. The method I used to make them changed slightly when going from canvas to paper, but remained true to the original idea. The nontraditional paint manipulation gave me considerably less control over the medium than I'd have with a brush or painting knife, and yielded fairly random results. The paint was used straight out of the tube and mixed directly on the surfaces. I like the feeling of movement the paintings convey, the patterns that emerge, and the color variations that occur. I'm very interested in using this painting style on larger canvases.

Secondary I, acrylic on canvas 16x16 inches

Untitled I, acrylic on illustration board, 10x15 inches
Untitled II, acrylic on paper, 6.5x8.5 inches

Untitled III, acrylic on paper, 6x8 inches

Untitled IV, acrylic on paper, 5.5x9 inches

Untitled V, acrylic on paper, 5.5x9 inches

Untitled VI, acrylic on paper, 6x9 3/8 inches

Untitled VII, acrylic on paper, 6x5 inches

The process used to make the following two paintings was devised at the same time as the process above, but it's a completely different method than I used for the previous works...with obviously different results. This process has some glitches, so I've put it on the back burner for the time being, but would like to try it again when I've got more time to fix the kinks.  

Untitled I, acrylic on illustration board, 6x8.25 inches

Untitled II, acrylic on illustration board, 8.25x6 inches

New-ish work

It's been awhile since I've posted, but I'm back. The new posts will be about my paintings.

First off is a series I did, entitled Things I Carry With Me From My Childhood. These small acrylic paintings are approximately 5x3inches and relate to people and experiences guessed childhood. The little paintings are housed in "galleries" made from thrift store toddler's clothing. The pieces took quite sometime to plan, but I'm happy with the results.

The paintings were harder to make than I thought they'd be. They took days and days and days. I used tiny brushes (and even the tip of a straight pin and broom straws a few times), and I had to play quite a bit with the mixture of paint and medium to get the proper paint consistency.

The "galleries" were created by altering the small dresses (adding trim details and removing some really ugly plaid from one of them) and stiffening them (not nearly as easy as I'd thought it would be...there were balloons involved) with a product called Paverpol. After drying for several days, doors were cut in each dress with a tiny hand saw and a Dremel (also not as easy as I'd thought it would be, especially since I was using the Dremel in a manner for which it was not intended), and hardware and floors, etc. were added.

This one was created as a shrine to my Gran. I lived with her when I was little. She was quite eccentric and often awesome. Most of us have at least one person who played a large part in helping to nurture the good parts of who we've turned out to be. She was my primary person. I chose this dress because it was black velveteen and looked like something I might've worn. I made the frame for the painting out of wood, Sculpey, and acrylic.

This piece has to do with a painful memory, but it's one of my favorite paintings. It turned out exactly as I wanted it to, and I love it for that reason. I chose this dress because I had a red velvet dress with a white lace collar when I was little.

The painting is Mr. Pig. When I was little, I lived with my grandparents on a farm. My grandfather raised pigs. My grandmother, being the grandmotherly sort (wanting to keep me safe, since sometimes grown pigs can pose a danger to small children), proceeded to scare the living daylights out of me by convincing me that all pigs were monsters who oinked and ate kids. My grandfather watched The Untouchables and Humphrey Bogart on television (often, in vintage gangster movies, the bad guys would have a "Mr. Big" who was the head baddie). In my little girl brain, a freaky porker named Mr. Pig dressed in a fedora and trench coat and lurking outside my bedroom window every night made total sense. Open windows after dark terrified me because I was sure he was out there, just waiting to grab me. He stayed with me for awhile. I chose this dress because jumpers were popular when I was little.

The dress and tiny painting series was an idea I came up with when trying to move a bit beyond the confines of what's traditionally considered painting...painting-plus, I guess. I have a bit of background in working with fibers and although much more time and effort went into this than I'd expected, I seriously enjoyed creating them and I liked adding a sculptural component to my work.