Monday, July 28, 2014

seven feet of stretched canvas

In June I flew out to Minneapolis, Minnesota to meet a freelance client, tour their space and get photos and materials for a very large commissioned painting. I spent a few weeks sorting through and editing everything and finally started the actual painting process last week. A local artist taught me how to build and stretch this massive 7'x3' canvas and after four coats of primer to thicken and tighten it, it was ready to go! Mike built me third easel to keep it completely balanced, and I extended my drop cloth territory just to be safe. I wake up every day appreciative for this studio, but especially now that I have a giant canvas in the middle of it and still room to walk around.

An artist friend remarked that she was surprised I had never stretched my own canvas before because it was such a basic skill of our craft, like a chef making a roux. That's a negative aspect of not having attended art school… the most basic skills that every freshman art student learns have sometimes been totally foreign to me. Stretching canvases. Underpainting. Focal lightness. All of these basic principals have to be self-taught through trial and error (and error, and more error, etc.) which is helpful to unique growth but also immensely frustrating. Sometimes I wonder if I'm doing okay as it is, but sometimes I wonder if I should seek out classes or go back to school to ensure I'm creating my best possible work. (Are you an artist? Are you self-taught, or did you go to school for art/become an apprentice? How much do you feel you learned in school and how much was natural discovery during/after? I'm interested in hearing different perspectives on this issue.)

I'm all for trying and failing and learning from it because that's generally how unique, personal techniques are discovered, but I felt really lucky to have connected with the artist who took the reins on this giant, heavy canvas…. there turned out to be a few special tricks to stretching a piece this big, and with a project of this magnitude and cost there was no room for error. Thanks Ashley!

After priming, I glued a layer of paper, sanded it, glued another and started my outline. Colored blocks frame where the different paper materials will go and the general lightness and darkness of the piece. This painting will be a little less rustic and distressed than some of my work, so lots of painters tape was used to help create straight lines and angles.

The last golden light of the day beaming over Fenway and onto my East wall tells me it's time to call it quits.. look how dark it gets! I used to be a night painter, but the quality of the daylight here is so incredible that I try to use every minute of it that I can. Once the sun starts to set the light changes so dramatically that good colors look 'off' and bad colors look right and mistakes are easily made, so I have to put down my brushes for the day.

Because this is a private commission I can only share a little of it, but I'm excited to finish it, freight it (!) and show you the hanging piece. This is the biggest single canvas I've ever worked on and it's been a bit challenging to navigate such a big space, compared to a smaller painting that my eyes can take in all together… I have a new respect for artists that paint on a big scale because it truly involves a lot of stepping back and forth ;)

And just for fun, Chubby Boots in our living room hammock. What a mush, right? He loves it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

five paintings on driftwood & drawers

Over the last year or so I've been experimenting more with painting on nontraditional surfaces like driftwood, book covers and pages, antique drawers and more.

My art already incorporates as much relevant material as I can find to enhance the story I'm trying to tell – a nautical map of the coast where a lighthouse stands; layers of train schedules, telegrams and driving maps over long winding roads, etc – so it only felt natural to play around on new surfaces as well. There was a little trial and error as I figured out how to prime and prep them (essential to making a high-quality, long lasting painting) while still keeping a very organic, "just found" look, but they proved to be the perfect way to make my paintings more unique and tactile.

Using driftwood from trips to Plum Island and vintage drawers mostly from the SoWa Vintage Market I created six paintings (some a few months old and some finished this month) that finally went up in my shop last week:

Letterpress Lighthouse, 19"x12" mixed media in a letterpress drawer

Per Via Aera, 5.5"x4" mixed media on driftwood lumber 

Newport Harbor Light No. 3, 18"x7.5" mixed media in antique white flat drawer

To Keep The Sea, 3"x 12" mixed media and vintage letters in metal and wood drawer 

Newport Light No. 4, 6"x6" on canvas 

Driftwood Dive No. 1, 5.5"x8" mixed media on flat driftwood 

I announced these on my Facebook page last week and four sold right away, but two are still available in my Etsy shop. They're also with me at my booth at the SoWa Market almost every Sunday this summer :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

in summer

"In summer, the song sings itself." - poet William Carlos Williams

I have so much good stuff to share with you! But as always happens in the heat of summer, blogging has been eclipsed by a pile of half-finished paintings waiting for paint and a lot of fun warm weather adventuring during any free moments. So I'll leave you with this just-finished ode to summer, available in my Etsy shop. Happy summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

on the road: michigan's upper peninsula

When you drive into the UP you are immediately transported onto winding highway through a lush national forrest. This is Old Route Two, a mostly rural route that spans from just north of Seattle to just north of Boston, the same one I drove most of when I came out East for my freshman year of college. The amount you see on this route is incomparable to a highway like I-90 which runs nearly the same route but whips you past all the tiny forgotten towns, gorgeous forests and sprawling backroad farms - the whole purpose of a road trip, in my opinion. Mid-June in the backroads of the Michigan's Upper Peninsula is really beautiful, but really, really full of mosquitos.

I planned to camp at Lake Marion for the night, but when sunset rolled around the mosquitos were so thick I couldn't even get out of my car to take photos, let alone set up my tent! I have lived in a treehouse in the swampland of Southern Georgia in the summer, and that was nothing compared to the midwestern mosquito swarms just outside my car. Thankfully my cousin's house was my next planned stop, so I turned my car north, put in a few more hours of driving and made it up to the Keweenaw Peninsula where she lives with her husband and their pups.

Like much of my family, Erica is originally from Alaska, and was moving her whole house and family back there a week after my visit! She still took the time to bring me on a beautiful hike through a lush forest with her two dogs, River and Malina, and then up to Copper Harbor at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Something cool about this place is that though it's west of Chicago (which is on Central Time) it's actually on Eastern time thanks to 19th century copper and silver miners who wanted to be in the same time zone as their stock traders in New York. So it was 8:30pm in both the Keweenaw and in Boston, but here the sun was still high in the sky and it didn't set until about 10pm.

We walked a few beaches and then headed to Brockaway Mountain (or "Broccoli" as I thought it was pronounced for the first hour we were there…) where a winding mountain road brings you to 1,300 feet above sea level and gives you a 360 degree view of Lake Superior and the Keweenaw.

They packed a grill and we grilled up scallops from Erica's home in Kodiak, and moose meat from our uncle Don, a subsistence hunter in the Alaskan interior.

Seriously… you can take my cousin out of Alaska, but she'll still bring you to the top of a mountain and grill you a moose. It was a highlight of my trip.

There was so much to see on the UP. It was never a place I really considered much before, but I wish I could have had several more days to explore. Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks and Ottawa National Forest (maybe next time not during mosquito season…) are some of the last uninhabited and undeveloped wildness of the "North Coast" that I just didn't have time for. The next morning I was on the road by 7am after saying goodbye to Erica and Dan, who were preparing for their own road trip back to Alaska.