Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Truth of Myth Series: Getting Started

 Last Fall, I was selected to have a solo show at Pioneer Square Saloon for April 2014.  For those of you not familiar with Seattle, Pioneer Square is known to be one of the major areas for fine art in the city.  So OMG! 

I got to choose the month, and April seemed like a nice long ways away - plenty of time to work on lots of paintings.  I had a stack of 1 foot by 1 foot birch panels, and months to work on them...

Which of course meant that suddenly it was March, and I had 16 paintings to get done.  Anxiety and deadlines are great motivators, so I actually managed to get all 16 paintings done (plus some additional work) in 
10 days.

So I would like to talk about the overall process and each of the resulting paintings in turn.  

First the panels themselves started off as a massive sheet of birch plywood, nearly 1" thick, which was then cut down into 1 foot squares. I sanded them, gave them each several layers of gesso, sanded them again, then started to lay down fields and washes of color on some of them.  

Then I stared at them.  I moved them around the studio.  I added some more color, moved them around some more, and then....stared at them more.  Then, as I mentioned in the previous entry, I got inspired - actually it was a sort of anti-inspiration - it's what I knew I did NOT to do with my work that got me moving.

I generated a list of about 30+ deities, archetypes, and women from myth who have been "done wrong", and then asked the internet for their favorites.  From that, I selected about 18 of them, created a post-it note with each name, and paired up panels with names.  The pairing process wasn't random, but was a rather involved process where I considered each panel, the color it was (if any), and what I "saw" in it.

It's a bit hard to explain the "seeing-without-seeing" experience...it's more in my mind's eye, rather than something I physically see.  The color of the panel, possible shapes in the brushstrokes or grain of the wood - these all have a feeling to them. The same is true for every personality/persona I had selected, so they needed to match up.

However, not every panel stayed paired with its initial designation.  By the time I was done, at least two panels switched, and another two wanted to be completely different concepts, so they went to my other two remaining selections.

I also worked on several pieces at a time - not at the same moment, but working on one panel, setting it aside to dry, and using my remaining paint to work on another piece, and so forth.  I chose to use acrylic paint for these - which is both a blessing in that it dries quickly, and a curse that you waste paint if you don't use what you've squeezed out right then and there.  So working on several pieces per session allowed me to not only switch gears mentally and not overwork any one piece, but to also make good use of my paint.

The paintings "lived" on the floor of my studio when I wasn't working on them, so I could easily look at all of them at once.  This placement allowed me to make stylistic adjustments, and evaluate the strength of each piece.  When I was satisfied with the entire collection, I used a high gloss varnish on them, which brought all of the colors and detail to life.  
I tend to use acrylics unconventionally, alternating between watercolor and oil techniques - so the varnish transformed the pieces, giving both translucence and depth. 
In the upcoming posts, I will discuss the story and symbolism behind each piece on its own.