Last month I shared with you that I started painting people again. You can see the first four paintings of the series below. I’m now working on the fifth painting of six I planned to make. After I make six, I’ll decide if I’m going to continue making them. At this point, I’m loving the process, I’m learning a lot and I see no reason to stop working figuratively in the near future. It’s interesting to note that I was primarily painting people until a semester into graduate school when I began exploring abstraction. This was back in 2002, and over the years every time I tried making figurative work again, it just didn’t feel right.
This time feels different. The way I’m approaching painting the figures and establishing their relationship to the spaces around them, the way I’m layering the paint and using color feels like things I’ve been thinking of for the last 2 decades are clicking.
I’m interested in what happens when the figures aren’t looking out at us, when they look away or toward someone or something off the edge of the painting. The paintings feel like a moment within time, like something has just happened before we were privy to the moment in the painting and it will continue beyond the painting. The people occupy outside spaces that are ambiguous, sometimes deep and three-dimensional and other time more geometric and on the surface of the painting. I’m playing with colors, noticing which ones create interesting optical effects, particularly on the depth portrayed in the painting. The paintings are mysterious and a little weird and that feels like the right place for me right now.
Looking at the image of my studio above and of the painting Pilot Mountain 1 below, you’ll notice similar colors and compositions. Seeing my work from different periods like this together reminds me that I’ve been interested in the same things visually for a long time. I think it’s the subject matter thats most different.
Pilot Mountain 1 is available from my shop. It’s one of the paintings inspired by my favorite place to walk and run, Pilot Mountain.
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.
Two years in the making of a painting collection… What started this body of work was a question I asked on Facebook: What outdoor spaces bring you peace and happiness? Friends sent me photos of their special landscapes, and I used those images as a jumping off point to create these paintings.
In this series of landscapes the feel of wide open spaces meets a soft geometry – a meditative play of shapes and colors.
Explore the paintings in the Searching in the wind collection HERE.
Why do I make abstract paintings? Well it’s an instinctive thing and it’s what has primarily interested me in my artistic practice over the last two decades. For me, the experience of making a painting successful with nothing but marks and color keeps me interested and engaged. It also allows me to express a lot of the ideas and images I think of in a way that is more sensorial.
I don’t paint so that people can see what it’s like to be outside. I paint so that people can FEEL what it’s like to be outside.
When a painting features a thing or person, we are drawn to those recognizable elements and the possible stories around them. Abstraction is so vital because it captures the things we cannot see. When it’s done well, abstraction pulls at our gut in ways that we may not be able to express with words or photos. It taps a line directly to our emotions. This is why some people cry when they are in the presence of a Rothko painting. I am one of those people. It never fails that if I see a Rothko and I take the time to sit in front of it, I’ll soon be sobbing. (It was embarrassing at first, and then I just gave into it.)
I paint both totally abstract and representational paintings. I consider my more representational work – like my plein air landscapes – an important part of my practice. All of that looking at the world and recording it and making decisions about what to include affects my more abstract work. I think of the small landscapes as finished paintings, but they are also studies for my larger more abstract works. When I paint or draw, and am not simply copying something, I make a series of decisions about how to translate what I see or think of into marks and color. With time, as I keep practicing my craft, my eye and hand become more agile and my decision-making is strengthened. With experience, I’ve become more confident in my decisions while I work. When to make big changes or when to stop are not easy problems to solve, but I trust my process.
Life is a big paradox. I think abstraction often does a more compelling job of expressing this than a photo-representational artwork. I’ve accepted that life is chaos and I’m ok with not having it all figured out. Painting is what helps me explore this and share it with everyone else.
How does abstraction make you feel? Do you have any questions about this you’d like to ask me? Email me and I’ll do my best to answer.
I’ll leave you with this excellent video from PBS’ The Art Assignment. This is “The Case for Abstraction.”
I’m fascinated by the wind. Cultures create all sorts of stories to try and make sense of the wind and how it affects us. My grandparents lived in Caen, France for a while when I was little. It’s a very windy place, and I will always remember how the wind there made me feel. It tossed me around, made me feel little, and made me feel generally uneasy. On the other hand, winds clean the air, carry scents, and even create power with wind turbines.
I made these paintings as I thought of the wind: how it feels when we’re outside when it’s hot or cold, how it shapes the earth…
The wind is mysterious. It’s such a powerful force and yet we can’t see it.
In these particular paintings, I’m layering shapes and color evocative of landscapes seen both from ground level and from above (from an airplane for example). I also layer gestural marks and shapes of color to convey the energy of the outdoors.
These paintings are currently available from my web shop until August 27th. Find them HERE.
There’s a strong wind called Le Mistral in the south of France.
According to popular culture throughout history, this wind has been accused of everything from making people crazy to inciting murder. So in that vein, here’s an interesting tidbit I found this week… Van Gogh, who famously lived in the south of France, maybe didn’t commit suicide. Recent forensic research shows that he may have been instead murdered by a local group of kids who used to bully him… Read more about why this could be true, how the story of his suicide came about, and why a lot of folks are angry about it on the Charmed Studio and on Vanity Fair.
If you found this the least bit interesting, please share it with others. Thanks!
Artists get a bad rap. Whether it’s the myth of the starving artist, or the stories of drug and alcohol abuse, there aren’t a lot of highly visible models for artists to follow for a healthy sustainable career. An artist who takes care of themselves, spends time with their family, and behaves like a professional doesn’t necessarily make for the most exciting story, but the fact is, it makes for a more productive, well-rounded, happier artist, who is more likely to keep making their artwork and have a thriving life and career.
Fitness is an important tool for me. I need to move my body to burn off excess energy (outside if possible), and most importantly, I find that it clears my head, focuses my mind, and helps manage my mood – an essential part of spending long hours working on my own.
I believe that to make our most honest artwork, it helps to have a clear head. When I don’t exercise – especially outside – I am prone to depression and anxiety. Riding my bike is especially potent – the intense exercise burns off excess energy and the repetitive action of pedaling helps to tap right into a meditative state. This is the best recipe for me. As a bonus, riding is a social activity, a good counter balance to days working alone.
I stand most of the day and my work sometimes involves reaching and twisting into strange positions (such as the week of installation required to hang Paper Mountain – Click here to watch a timelapse of the week-long process). My work involves making repetitive motions for long periods of time (when using painting or cutting tools or folding paper for instance), so repetitive injury is a risk for me. In addition to more vigorous exercise, I practice yoga on most mornings to stave off pain from new and old injuries and to calm my mind. When I’m being especially good, I also finish the day with a few minutes of physical therapy and calisthenics for basic strength and injury prevention.
A big part of making art sustainable for me is to take care of myself. It’s hard enough to spend long hours on my own acting as both artist and entrepreneur, but if I’m not mentally and physically fit, it makes it difficult to stay focused and to work without physical pain.
The old myth of the starving unhealthy artist is just that – OLD. I’d rather keep myself healthy so I can keep on making my work long into old age.
In the fall of 2018, The College of William & Mary in Virginia, my alma mater, invited me to give a talk during the “100 Years of Women” anniversary exhibit. The talk was part of the Department of Art and Art History’s Alumni Speaker Series. It was a humbling experience to give a talk in the very lecture hall where I took my first art history survey class as a freshman in 1998.
I spoke about how motherhood spurred me to get serious about my art practice, how spending time in the outdoors fuels me and my work, my art-making process, some of the stories behind my work, and why art matters. Watch the talk below.
On March 16th, a day after the opening of “Beyond the Mountain” at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art, I sat down for a talk about the inspiration behind my work. I explain my painting process, where the ideas for Paper Mountain and Sky Project came from, and why art and going outside will save us. And if you scroll down a little farther, I added a little treat: a private tour of my work in the exhibit. Enjoy!
You can experience the exhibit for yourself until April 25th at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art in Charlotte, NC. To see more of Paper Mountain and Sky Project, visit the project page HERE.
I’ve been making things since I was a kid – I remember a lot of time making stuff with my mom at the dining room table – and I always drew.
Fast forward a few years… My dad signed me up for figure drawing sessions at the École des Beaux Arts in Tours, France when we lived there during my tenth grade year of high school. That was my first time drawing from the nude figure and in a room full of other adult artists.
I continued studying art in college and in grad school, I even taught art, but it wasn’t until after we had our son that I really began to understand what it means to be a professional artist. After he was born, I had to make art a priority – to be ruthless about it – if I was going to keep making things along with being a mom, a wife, and holding down a day job. I also wanted to demonstrate strong work ethic to my son, to show him that part of the process of doing things is to experiment, to fail, to start again… and I wanted him to be proud of his mom.
I finished installing Paper Mountain at Elder Gallery of Contemporary Art last week. After one year of planning, three months of folding paper cranes, and one week of installation with a team, it feels good to see the project come to life and to share it with others.
Below are two time lapse videos showing the installation process from Saturday night through Wednesday. I used GoPros to shoot one photo per minute for the duration of the installation. The first video was shot from the ground floor, and the second was shot from the mezzanine for a bird’s eye view. These are the steps we followed to install Paper Mountain:
Assemble the scaffold (not for the faint of heart)
Place tape on the floor to mark the footprint of the mountain
Attach the wire fence to the ceiling trusses
Tie fishing line to the wire
Open each crane (fold wings down)
Pierce the top of a crane with a needle
Run fishing line through a crane
Place crane at correct height
Squeeze split shot (small lead weight) under the bird to hold it in place