In the Studio: August

Hand study

Inspired by the paintings and drawings of hands and feet by Adolph von Menzel I saw recently in Berlin, I decided to do one myself. A fascinating study of those weird appendages we may not really think about much in our day to day busy-ness. The longer you look the more strange and wondrous they appear.

Adolph von Menzel, The Artist’s Foot, 38.5 cm (15.16 in), Width: 33.5 cm (13.19 in), oil on wood, 1876

In the Studio: Life Drawing

Portrait of my husband, January 17, 2012

Had the best day and am feeling so happy–life drawing in the morning at the wonderful Basic Inquiry studio, then massage and chiropractor (because I’m all twisted up from painting so much), then to the art supply store to see about buying some Winsor and Newton water-mixable oil colors.

I’ve been curious about these paints, and like the idea of not working with solvents. Having materials that are more safe and portable for working with at home and potentially plein air is an attractive option.

When I got home I tried them out by making a quick portrait of my husband. Underneath the painting is the beginning of a drawing I started in Vermont but aborted; I’m glad it has a new life.

This life-drawing/painting thing is thrilling. I’ve missed it.

In the Studio: January

At the moment I have three bodies of work on the go: studies from life; “Divided Attention” paintings; and more direct paintings from my travels, some of which will be in my upcoming exhibition at Galerie de Bellefeuille, June 30-July 10, 2012.

Working from life again is super exciting. I haven’t done a self-portrait in ten years, and this time the experience was altogether different. I’m interested in getting at a fairly raw, short-hand quality, an economy of means. I may look stern (from extreme concentration), but I’m actually having a blast.

Self-portrait, 2012
Untitled, 2012
Untitled, 2012

In the Studio: August

How to bring the open quality of drawing into my painting practice?

Eclipse, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 inches, 2011

I’ve been researching the best materials for what I want to do, and recently I’ve been flirting with acrylics. The possibilities of layering quickly with acrylics are more akin to the flexible nature of drawing. The painting above was done in a single session.

After making this painting, however, I realize I still have a love affair with oil paint, so I’m now working out how to bring some of the qualities of the painting above into my ongoing body of work. Back to the studio for more problem-solving. It’s August, the sun is finally here, I may just goof off next week instead of flaying myself!

Negotiating Uncertainty

Living Room (below) has come a long way in six days. I guess Malcolm Morley was right: “if the inspiration is there, the process follows”. I think it’s well on its way.

The process of making a painting is rarely straight-ahead. Since I don’t work with formulas, each piece is a way of starting again. At the first lay-in (starting layer of paint) of a multi-panel piece, my initial excitement was followed by huge self-doubt. Convinced that I had begun a project impossible to complete, I pronounced the painting a failure, and turned the panels against the wall for about a week. In a brave moment, I showed them to some supportive painter friends, who thought the project worth pursuing.

If I feel a glimmer of excitement about the possibilities, that’s a good sign. These things never work out if I just do something because I think it will be good for me (martyrdom definitely not on the agenda).

Only through time and effort will I know whether I can pull it off. There’s still a possibility that three or four weeks of work will go nowhere, but I’m optimistic it will be worth the effort. Or will it?

This painting is based on a photograph sent to me by my friend and amazing artist, Chris Dorosz.



Nelson_Conversation1_Dorosz, 72 x 102 inches, oil and acrylic on wood (4 panels), 2009
Some details of paintings


Hall 2, 2009, graphite and pencil crayon on vellum and stonehenge papers
Hall 2, 2009, graphite and pencil crayon on vellum and stonehenge papers
Hall 1, 15 x 22 inches, 2009, graphite and pencil crayon on vellum and stonehenge papers
Hall 1, 15 x 22 inches, 2009, graphite and pencil crayon on vellum and stonehenge papers


The Painted Hall Revisited

Below is one of the newest works completed in my studio. I am currently painting a handful of pieces for the Galerie de Bellefeuille, so my body of work for the Bau-Xi (forthcoming, November in Toronto) is on hold temporarily to fulfill that obligation.

The Painted Hall Revisited, oil and acrylic on wood, 36 x 48 ins
The Painted Hall Revisited, oil and acrylic on wood, 36 x 48 ins

I have previously made I think two other works of the Painted Hall in Chatsworth. Something about the geometry and light of this room keeps me coming back. No two works are ever alike–I am a slightly different person today than I was yesterday, and quite changed from the person who painted a similar piece two years ago; my way of laying down marks has been shifting.

It’s also admittedly an excuse to spend time in this room again. I don’t think I have delusions of grandeur, but the hall, which was expertly decorated for an overall stunning effect, is great fodder for a painter. This piece, which is 36 x 48 inches, took around five days to complete. I would love to do one more, much larger, so you can physically feel the space.

photo credit: Derek von Essen