on process and discovery

Paintings in progress
Three works in progress in the studio

I’ve been working on a new group of paintings. The work feels good, which is actually scary because this makes it harder to progress in the paintings. It’s easier to work on a painting when it doesn’t feel right and when things obviously need to be corrected.

Part of the process for me is figuring out the painting as I go. I don’t have a particular image in mind when I’m working, so the process is a kind of searching for the image. As the painting progresses, I slowly discover the painting – a kind of adventure!

To summarize my painting process:

  • Starting (doing something to activate the white of the blank canvas)
  • Making some decisions for what the initial composition will be (breaking up the pictorial space into shapes using color and line)
  • Every layer after that is a series of edits until something gels. This can include combining smaller shapes into bigger ones, changing colors by covering up opaquely or transparently or pulling paint through wet underlayers, making new shapes, changes edges of shapes by accentuating or softening them or outlining them for example…

Over the years, I’ve tried to combine some of the different ideas I explore in my work: geometric abstraction such as my little watercolor squares, plants and the landscape, and a stacking of shapes like these paintings:

In the new group of paintings I feel like I’m getting some traction combining these ideas. The work feels decisive and allows me to work both from life and with abstraction – which is satisfying. I start the paintings looking at a landscape or still life (a house plant in this case) as a reference. I block out a composition in one color – usually a hot pink because I enjoy the dissonance it creates with the colors in the finished painting. Using that first start as a sort of map, I decide what to outline or fill in with color. From there, each layer changes according to what the painting needs and I follow the process I outlined above.

I’m excited to be making these and am curious to see where the work goes as I progress in the series…

If you’d like to be the first to know when this work becomes available, sign up for my emails here.

Taking my son on his first backpacking trip

Backpacking gear watercolor painting
Watercolor painting of our Backpacking gear because I couldn’t resist

I took my 9-year old son on his first backpacking trip last weekend. We were out for 2 nights and covered a total of 22 miles, with plenty of climbing and challenging trail surfaces – and beautiful landscapes to reward us!

We started our adventure by climbing Mount Rogers, VA for a few miles until the path intersected with the Appalachian Trail. Once we got on the AT, it was a different feel than any other trail. There are more people – although it’s remote enough not to be swarmed – and there is a palpable mystique. Hikers we met were friendly and encouraging to my son – everyone understood how challenging it is to carry a heavy pack for many miles, especially for someone that young.

View from Thomas Knob on Mount Rogers, VA
View from Thomas Knob on Mount Rogers, VA

On day 1 we hiked 6 miles mostly uphill until we stopped for the night at Thomas Knob, the highest point of the AT in VA. It was cold and windy that night and my son had trouble sleeping because of it. In the morning I showed him the map and possible bail-out options if he was really having a terrible time. We talked about what continuing meant and how leaving early might make him feel, and as we got moving and he warmed up, his spirits lifted and he decided to stick to our plan for the big day ahead. We were rewarded with gorgeous landscapes and the legendary wild ponies of Grayson Highlands.

Rocky Terrain on Wilburn Ridge, VA
Rocky Terrain on Wilburn Ridge, Appalachian Trail, VA

On the second day we hiked about 12 miles of rolling technical terrain over 8.5 hours. It was by far the hardest thing he’s done yet, and the last hour especially was a struggle, but we made it to our spot for the night at the Old Orchard just in time to set up camp, find water, and make dinner before dark. 

The descent toward Scales, Appalachian Trail, VA
The descent toward Scales with the Blue Ridge, Appalachian Trail, VA

On our last morning, after hiking about 1.5 mile, we said goodbye to the Appalachian Trail and finished our hike for about 2 miles on the Fairwood Valley trail. This was mostly downhill and other than a stream crossing, smooth terrain, so our adventure ended a little faster than expected. After celebrating in the parking lot, we drove 2 hours to make it home in time for pancakes and bacon for lunch. 

During the trip, I was struck by the variety of landscapes and trail surfaces we moved through: dense forests, rock gardens, mountains, hills and valleys, with all shades of green, big skies, cold and heat and wind… I’m taking all these landscapes with me as I work on a new crop of paintings… so stay tuned.

In the woods of the Appalachian Trail, VA
In the woods of the Appalachian Trail, VA

Thank you to Into the Backcountry for the excellent trail recommendation.

Wild in the heaven of earth, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 inches

Feature in Art Beat of Forsyth Woman!

This month Forsyth Woman is featuring my work in their magazine! Writer Taryn Jerez and I discuss many aspects of being an artist including influences, my evolution as an artist and how I carve out studio time. You can read the piece here.

Thank you Taryn and Forsyth Woman for the feature in the February issue!

Paper mountain and the space between the clouds installation
Installation shot of Paper Mountain and the Space Between the Clouds at Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University

Winning a NC Arts Council Grant!

I’m happy to share with you that I was awarded an Artist Support Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council. With this award I’ll have the chance to study encaustic painting and to equip my studio to practice this ancient painting technique.

Encaustic is a painting medium made of beeswax, damar crystals and pigment, which is melted and fused onto a rigid support such as wood. I have wanted to try encaustic for years, so I’m super excited to finally learn it. Plus I get to use a blow torch!!! (Yes mom and dad, I promise I’ll be careful.)

This medium has been in use for millennia. Ancient Egyptians used it for portraiture, and the medium is so long lasting that some of those paintings are still with us. Encaustic painting is such an old technique that it predates oil painting and even tempera. It’s a versatile medium that can be combined with oil painting, watercolor, collage, sculpture and even installation. I’m curious to see where it will take my work!

So thank you N.C. Arts Council, Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County, and ArtsGreensboro for this award!

You can read more about the grant program and the winners here at Yes!Weekly.

encaustic icon from Saint Catherine's Monastery
A 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine’s Monastery, Egypt.

This project was supported by the N.C. Arts Council, a Division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County, and ArtsGreensboro.

On Running 23 Miles and Exhibit Reception Dates

It’s been a strange couple of weeks. We got a bunch of snow a few days ago – AND IT’S STILL HERE. If you’ve spent any time in the South, you might know how weird it is to get snow and for it to actually stick for a while rather than turn into a grey mess. While my classes at UNCSA started last week, I still haven’t had a chance to see my students in person because all our classes have been online. My son has been off school all week due to the winter weather. And I ran 23 miles last Friday – on a mountain. Yeah, you heard that right. I ran 23 miles and I’m still kicking.

If you’ve been following along on my journey, you might remember that I’ve been training for a trail marathon in my favorite place, Pilot Mountain. It’s been almost half a year of training so far and I have one more long run to go before the big day. But back to last Friday.

It was a pretty terrible run. Nothing felt right for most of the 5.5 hours I spent up on the mountain. But worse than the physical discomfort was the mental anguish (not exaggerating). I just couldn’t get it together and dealt with self doubt/pity for most of the run. It’s normal to have a particularly bad training session at some point, so it wasn’t totally unexpected. There were some bright spots during the run though: I got to use my first aid kit and save my foot from an impending giant blister for example.

After this experience, I have a good idea of what to improve on for my next long run. And as my husband Tim said, “Look at it this way: on a bad day, you still ran 23 miles.” ‘Nuff said.

In the studio, I’m in my usual winter routine of digging into fundamentals and studying color. I’ve been working on color studies and playing with ideas for a new project involving Legos. I’m not sure this project will amount to anything big, but it’s keeping my momentum going and may lead to other ideas.

My show at Charlotte Russell Contemporary is up until February 16th and we’ve scheduled a closing reception on Friday February 11th 5:30-7:30pm. Find more details on the gallery website here.

Living in the Sky, oil and acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 inches

Here There Everywhere

Where to Catch Me and my Work this Month

It’s heating up here in the studio and I’m pleased to share with you a few events where you’ll find me and my work this month.

This Saturday December 4th I’ll be at the Artfolios Holiday Bazaar with artwork available for purchase. You’ll find artwork from 17 other artists there and live music, coffee and snacks from 1-4pm at Current Coworking in Winston-Salem. Find all details here.

Yadkin Riverkeeper  is running their annual fundraising auction, and one of my paintings is up for grabs. Support my favorite local nonprofit and bring in a big breath of fresh air all at once when you buy this painting.

The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) is featuring my work along with others from a small group of artists in their Holiday Gift Shop. Proceeds support the museum’s programming. Details are here.

As always, I’m happy to chat with you over the phone or email if you have any questions about an artwork, installment plans, lighting or shipping. Email or call me at (336) 283-0185.

abstract landscape paintings on wall
PIlot Mountain 1 and 7, each 20×20 on wood panel – Click the image above to find them

 

40 hours installing an art exhibit

Last week, with the help of a whole team, I installed my latest exhibition at the Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University. The show includes a 19-foot tall painting installation as well as a 19-foot tall mountain of paper cranes with an approximately 12-foot square foot print. There is also a monumental video projection and a collection of paintings. Below is the video showing all 40 hours of the installation process. Read on for a breakdown of what happened during that time.

 

Day 1:

Measure/Cut/Attach the wire mesh to steel beams about 25-feet up

Tie fishing line to the mesh

Prep wall with masking tape to install 63 sky paintings in a grid

Day 2:

Tie fishing line to mesh

Prep wall with masking tape for 63 paintings grid

Lay out all sky paintings on the ground to arrange them for installation

Rebox paintings in order they’ll be installed

Start installing sky painting grid

Start attaching paper cranes to fishing line

Day 3:

Finish tying last remaining fishing line

Attach paper cranes

Interns start on this day: explain the work and each person’s job

Finish installing sky painting grid

Day 4:

Attach paper cranes

Hang all other paintings in the exhibit

Begin lighting mountain

Day 5:

Attach paper cranes and refine shape of mountain

Finish lighting mountain

Install largest painting in exhibit

Trim fishing line

Light all other paintings

I shot 1 photo per minute over the course of about 40 hours over 5 days, using a GoPro Hero 3+.

This exhibition is at the Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University, NC
October 25, 2021 – December 17, 2021
Opening Reception: October 28, 5:00-7:00 PM
Gallery Hours: Monday through Friday, 10am – 5pm

To see more details about each artwork or for purchasing, visit the gallery shop page.

THANK YOU to my partner Tim Bowman, the team of interns, Emily Gerhold and High Point University for supporting this exhibition.

From floods to Legos to skies – Evolution of a project

A couple of years ago after heavy rains and flooding, I noticed a strange sight while driving over the Yadkin River: a forest under water. The river had overflowed and the trees were standing in a few feet of water. Downed trees and branches were violently shoved up against still-standing trees. I was struck by the sheer power of the water overflowing its river banks and the dissonance of seeing a flooded forest.

 

This image stayed with me for a while and I collected branches which I made into little piles and bundles in my studio. I imagined a huge pile of tree trunks pushed up against a gallery wall and spilling out onto the gallery floor, the pile’s size dwarfing viewers. On an adjacent wall I imagined a wall size video projection of water slowly filling the screen to the sound of water running continuously.

 

Over the course of the next two years I made drawings and prototypes and kept running into the same problem: no matter how elegantly executed, the log stack and running water video created a feeling of dread. I couldn’t reconcile the sense of anxiety the pieces would likely provoke in viewers with my desire to create an immersive and elemental kind of experience in a gallery. Climate change is very real and frightening, but I refuse to subject viewers of my work to feelings of anxiety. As artists we are responsible for how our work affects people, and ultimately I want my work to feel vital and uplifting – even when the work deals with environmental concerns.

 

I sidelined the log pile and running water video ideas and turned to my watercolors to play and think. Watercolor is my “go-to” for figuring things out and generating ideas. I made piles of small playful mixed media drawings and wondered how they would look in a large scale if I made hundreds of them to cover a gallery wall from floor to ceiling – transforming the logs and water ideas to something less heavy-handed.

 

To prototype this idea, I made a hundred and twenty eight tiny drawings with watercolor, ink and colored pencil, and I installed them on a piece of foam core as if it were a tiny gallery wall. I then photographed this maquette with Lego mini figures as viewers to picture how it might feel on a monumental scale. It worked.
lego art gallery
In the spring of 2021, I was asked to exhibit my work at the Sechrest Gallery at High Point University, specifically my large-scale installation Paper Mountain and its companion piece Sky Project. The gallery is big. Even after installing the mountain of paper cranes and filling a wall with the Sky Project video, there was space for more work.  I knew I wanted to include some of my paintings, but there are two twenty foot-tall walls on one side of the gallery. One of these was perfect for a painting installation like what I had prototyped, but it needed to be different. The work I had made for the tiny gallery was very active work, and this needed to be more quiet because it would be near Paper Mountain, a twenty foot tall floating mountain of paper cranes. The painting installation couldn’t detract from Paper Mountain and ideally should complement it.

 

I wanted to make something that would be monumental as I had imagined with my Legos, and it also needed to uplift and encourage minds to wander. I decided to try skies for their universal and poetic quality, and made some prototypes in different painting styles and with different papers. After settling on the type of paint and the application, I found the perfect paper – heavy enough to lay flat on the wall even when coated in paint, the right size and excellent quality. It’s called Yupo, a polypropylene paper that is unpleasant and difficult to use with some mediums, but perfect for this particular project.

 

The project in its current form uses loosely painted skies to create a sense of air and space. The paintings will be hung in a grid 19 feet tall by 17 feet wide, covering one of the gallery walls near Paper Mountain. I’ve named it The space between the clouds.

 

I’m curious and excited to see how The space between the clouds will look installed. I’ll have to arrange the paintings onsite because my studio isn’t big enough to lay them all out at once, and I look forward to that part too.
The High Point University exhibition opens Thursday October 28th and is up until December 18th. The space between the clouds, Paper Mountain, Sky Project and a collection of paintings will be on display at Sechrest Gallery of Art.

 

You can support this project and see images of the work in progress on Buy Me a Coffee where I’ve been fundraising to cover the cost of paper and paint for The space between the clouds.

 

Sometimes you drop paintings on your face

I dropped a wet painting on my face this week.

I’m working on a group of paintings to cover an entire 19-foot tall gallery wall, and I work on them each week in groups of nine. (I’ve completed 45/63 as of today.) At the beginning of each week I start with six paintings on the middle and bottom rows (see below), and when I finish a row, I move it to the top to make room for three more pieces of paper.

On Tuesday while I moved one to the top row, I lost hold of it and it fell on me. Luckily the works are on paper so I didn’t hurt myself, and I managed to wash out the paint from my shirt. I should know better than to wear a good shirt in the studio – even with an apron.

Yesterday I had a meeting at the Sechrest Gallery of Art at High Point University, where I’m exhibiting this project, Paper Mountain and Sky Project and other works starting in October. During the meeting we dialed in the logistics for this exhibit and discussed some other peripheral projects to accompany the show. I’m so excited to share my work in this big beautiful space, to reinstall Paper Mountain and Sky Project and to finally see how my sky paintings will look on a massive scale.

This show will open on Thursday October 28th. Stay tuned for all the details.

On the top right is the culprit – the painting that fell on me!

I am at 79% of reaching my $500 fundraising goal for this project! Can you help me reach the goal?

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