#28. Post-show challenges (or, getting back in the saddle)

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“New Territory” 53×65″. mixed media on Fabriano paper. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

There’s a huge sense of relief after delivering a body of work to a gallery, and leaving it there with the gallery director… the next time you see the work, those paintings (or whatever it is) that you’ve pretty much lived with every day for months— are all installed in a stunning space, beautifully lit, waiting to be seen and experienced by others. [I’m truly fortunate to have my work currently showing at The Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art, at the University of Connecticut. The Gallery is dedicated to the memory of the late Alexey von Schlippe (1915-1988), an innovative and accomplished painter, born in Russia, and former Professor of Art at the University of Connecticut at Avery Point.] 

When people begin showing up for the opening, with wine in hand, saying complimentary things, congratulating you, it’s a grand feeling, for a couple of hours.

It is wonderful, if stressful, to spend months getting ready for a show, have it be installed, and then have a big opening. You see old friends, talk about your work, get congratulated. And then…. it’s over.

There is a post-opening grayness that settles in a day or two later. Getting back into the studio and trying to pick up where you left off just doesn’t happen, at least for me. That said—I’m immensely grateful and happy to have my recent work hanging in a beautiful gallery for six weeks, and it is a great feeling. (Of course, it would be icing on the cake to have the work sell.) But—getting back into the saddle is a challenge. Time to make new art. In order to make it happen….(it’s inevitable….) it’s the perfect time to… clean up the studio. ’Nuff said.

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#26. It’s (Almost) Showtime….

 

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Can you spell  P R O C R A S T I N A T E ?

Procrastination. It’s one of those constant challenges that lurk under my bed, along with the ever-present impostor syndrome that I struggle with. (I started writing this blog to fight this stuff.) I know myself well enough to know that if it weren’t for deadlines, I might not get anything big accomplished. Which is why I feel so fortunate to have them, big fat deadlines. The current one looming  (which I’ve had on the calendar for the past couple of years) is Friday, April 25th, the date of my exhibition opening at Alexey von Schlippe Gallery of Art.

Actually, the real deadline is on Tuesday, the 22nd. That’s when I deliver the work to the gallery, which is about an hour away. I’ve already reserved the UHaul van, and yesterday most of the paintings got wrapped up and taped, in heavy plastic sheeting. Still need to put wires on about 11 paintings… So far it looks like 30 paintings will be installed, from big (53×65”) to small (10×10”), although if I have it together, one more little painting will be finished by Tuesday.

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a bunch of paintings about to be wrapped (typical studio, although usually they are not scattered all over the floor)

I’d love to hear from you about how you work with deadlines and establish goals. And if you happen to be anywhere near Groton CT before June 7, maybe make a side trip to the AvS gallery, and check out my show there… it’s an amazing place to visit, a huge stone mansion, with a gorgeous sculpture path along the water (slideshow— you can advance the images manually) and beautiful grounds and ocean views. Worth a trip…Image

P.S. The gallery has four rooms, and there are three other artists showing in the other rooms. Here is the link to preview the show.

#24. Abstraction is in the details (or: painting pieces of paintings)

Painting a piece of a painting…? I’ve played with this idea in the past (not very successfully)– to isolate a small section of a painting, and reference it to make a large painting. If only I could magnify the immediacy and verve that live in those sexy little sections that were produced through spontaneity and intuitive mark-making, and create BIG paintings echoing those same qualities. Sounds easy. Ha.

So my last post showed the large piece I recently finished— “New Territory”.

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“New Territory. 53×65”. mixed media on Fabriano paper. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

What I didn’t say about it  is that it’s actually referenced from a very small detail from another painting, “Shadow Walk”, 36×36”, mixed media on wood panel. See the loose reference? This detail is about 4×6″. (I left out the dead tree in the 53×65″painting.)

Imagedetail, “Shadow Walk”

Here’s the quick journal sketch: Image

 And here’s the original painting:

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Shadow Walk, 36×36″. mixed media on wood panel. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

I still like the detail best.

 Abstract expressionist Franz Kline  was able to maintain that freshness from small sketches to gargantuan canvases.  He loved the quality of the mark-making in his small quick brush sketches, and in 1948 when his buddy Willem de Kooning turned him on to the Bell-Opticon opaque projector, he discovered he could project those small energetic strokes as enlarged abstract gestures. He grabbed a big brush, some black house paint, and used the projected images as templates for some very big paintings, which became huge calligraphic statements on the canvas.

ImageFranz Kline in studio, 1954.  Fritz Goro photo.

When Kline first projected one of his small ink sketches onto the wall, this is what he described:

“A four by five inch black drawing of a rocking chair…loomed in gigantic black strokes which eradicated any image, the strokes expanding as entities in themselves, unrelated to any entity but that of their own existence.”

Sounds like abstract expressionism in a nutshell.

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Franz Kline (American, 1910-1962). Untitled II, ca. 1952. Ink and oil on cut-and-pasted telephone-book pages on paper on board. 11 x 9 in. (28.1 x 23 cm). © 2010 The Franz Kline Estate / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 Here’s a short, jazzy little video from the MoMA about Kline’s painting process. 

Keep in mind that the bigger you go, the more you spend— time, materials, energy. Bigger brushes=expensive; bigger canvas or panel= way expensive; more paint (oil or acrylic) = way, way more expensive.  Klein used black enamel house paint because he could get it inexpensively, and loved the workability of it. [Oh well, I’m a coloroholic, I’ll  admit it. Also I use water-based materials. No more toxic stuff in my studio] So, big for me is say, 60 or 70″. Big for Kline was, well, REALLY big.

While Kline sometimes used a projector to magnify his images, I take small digital detail pics with my iPhone and then make awkward sketches of them in my art journal before attempting to translate the image into a larger scale. I wonder. Should I find a projector?

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detail, from “Vermont Reflections” On it’s way to becoming a big painting…. maybe.

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“Vermont Reflections” 24×24″. mixed media on canvas. ©2014 Karen Rand Anderson

#21.Clean sweep: reblogged from Danny Gregory

Oh boy!!!!! A terrific post about “cleaning up the studio” and the rest of life from the amazing and remarkable DANNY GREGORY. Some deeply inspirational ideas and hot tips on everything from old art supplies to outdated software and stagnant work habits.

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King

~Emily Dickinson

Danny Gregory

watercolor stages

Because it’s finally March and spring is allegedly on the horizon, I decided to clean up my studio. I swept the floor, wiped down all the tables, emptied the trash cans and water buckets, and vacuumed the chartreuse carpet the dogs nap and chew dried bulls’ pizzles on.

Then I decided to go deeper. Remembering the old carpenter’s homily, “Look after your tools and they’ll look after you,” I pulled all of my art supplies out of their drawers, boxes and Ziplocs and gave them a proper going over. I scrutinized each tube of watercolor and acrylic to make sure the lids were firmly screwed on, rolled them up from the bottom, and separated the ones that seemed too hopelessly hard and dry. I filled all the pans on my watercolor boxes with fresh paint and left them to solidify. I examined every brush and gave them a wash and…

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#19. “More Snow”: building a painting while wishing winter was over.

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photo by Laurel Casey

This winter in New England is… enough already. I’m not alone in feeling this. But in truth, it’s beautiful, in many ways. I’ve been doing some blue and white paintings as a result. Here is the process of my recent “More Snow”, mixed media on wood panel, 24×24″ (When I say “mixed media” I refer to the fact that the painting is not ONLY made of acrylic paint, but also pencil and water-based crayon.)

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First a couple of quick value and color studies in my art journal.

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I toned the panel with a random mix of phthalo blue, green shade; a small amount of lemon yellow; some teal; a little white. First time I’ve decided to use this teal color as a ground. Sketched out the image with hot pink pastel pencil. I like breaking rules, although I really don’t have too many in my studio.

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Laying in darks, lights and starting on some mid-tones… Also lots of scribbling. I love scribbling. Mark-making is important to me; I love the freedom of letting the marks make themselves through my hand.

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After I get things pretty well established, I often begin to get fussy, which is always a no-no. I take a lot of breaks, turn away from the painting, eat lunch, check my email, go back to the painting, play with my dog Theo,  plan the next painting, go back to the painting, sketch some other ideas, read books, check FB, (oops), go back to the painting.

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Anyway, after a few days, I decide it’s done, and here’s “More Snow” 24×24″ mixed media on cradled board. (My personal title is actually “More F$%^&ing Snow.” )

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“More Snow” 24×24″ mixed media on panel. © 2104  Karen Rand Anderson

Theo, faithful studio assistant

Theo, faithful studio assistant

 

#15. That Nasty Voice Again; or, WTFAYD?

So things seem to be going pretty well in the studio; you’re feeling that elation that is the divine experience of not thinking, not judging, not wondering, but just doing. Like a meditation through painting/making. And then you step back to look at the work. Shit. There’s The Voice. “WTF are you doing??” it says. Of course, I am not talking about you. I’m talking about me.

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Photo courtesy unlockthedoor.net.

It is rather constant, The Voice. When I googled “artist inner critic” the results were pretty staggering. Here’s a particularly good take on it, complete with some awesome advice by artist and full-time human being Janice Tanton.  Other terms that denote the inner critic are  “the judge” or “the gremlin” or “the little man.” (Janice’s term.)

It’s tempting to think that the really brilliant artists are/were free of the gremlin, but we know that’s not the case.

Henri Matisse:  “After a half-century of hard work and reflection the wall is still there. ”

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Henri Matisse, “La Tristesse du roi” (Sorrows of the King), 1952

 Claude Monet:  “For almost two months now I’ve been struggling away with no result.”

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Claude Monet: “Impression: Sunrise” 1873

And one of the most prolific and best painters of the 20th century, Richard Deibenkorn, said: “When I am halfway there with a painting, it can occasionally be thrilling… But it happens very rarely; usually it’s agony… I go to great pains to mask the agony. But the struggle is there. It’s the invisible enemy.”

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Richard Deibenkorn: “Berkley no. 22”  1954

However– it would appear our inner critics can be useful, according to this interesting article on the Behance website 99U.com. The author says: “The trick is to get the Critic back “onside,” delivering genuinely constructive criticism. Like the inspiring mentor who urged you to do your best and didn’t accept anything less – but with a supportive and encouraging tone of voice.”

Abstract expressionist Joan Mitchellwhose intense, energetic work I adore, had a particularly interesting relationship with her complex inner creative persona. In this short clip from a bio-documentary she talks about how she deals with “Little Joan and Big Joan.” I love it.

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For the full 57 minute documentary “Joan Mitchell: Portrait of an Abstract Artist” (Marion Cajori, 1993)  click here 

It’s no secret that meditation practice or mindfulness  is one strategy for helping to silence The Voice, as is allowing yourself to become immersed in that place of just making art. (easier said than done… damn that complex ego-thing.) As Robert Henri  wrote in 1923 in “The Art Spirit” (still one of the best books on art-making ever written) : “The object isn’t to make art, it’s to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable.” best. feeling. ever.

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 The bottom line? For me, it’s keep doing the work, and lock the gremlin outside the studio door, like Joan did. And look at what she produced.

#10. Stopping Trying

Confession: I used to try to be a certain way, look a certain way. I wondered if I was beautiful enough, smart enough, cool enough. Wondered how others would see me and/or my art. If my art was “good” enough, different enough, unique enough, powerful enough, inventive enough..If it was really meaningful. And on & on. Although I’ve consistently fought this stupid and annoying monkey on my back, it’s a constant process to shake it off. (“What? You think that’s GOOD ART? who are you kidding? who do you think you are?” ) This stuff is all a product of fear. Fear of what? Being rejected? Being hurt? Failure? Being seen as stupid? Being found out that I’m not really who I pretend to be? (see: impostor syndrome)

I know I’m not alone. It seems so many young (or not-so-young) emerging creatives are SO concerned with being edgy, cool, hip, trying their damnedest to impress. What about just DOING? Making? Saying? I know the feeling so well. Wanting, desiring, hoping for acknowledgement and “success”, wanting to stand out in the crowd, be “different”, get “known”.  Don’t all artists?

Maybe not.

“If we are willing to open ourselves up and be laid bare, to respond to the moment and without hesitation, to connect deeply with our audiences’ eyeballs and the minds behind, we will be freed of the bullshit that holds us back. We will tap into the deep wellsprings of creativity that lie beneath our artifice and style and self-conscious crap and hesitation and self-deception and excuses and fears. We will make art of truth.” Danny Gregory

Artist/writer/thinker all-around amazing and inspiring human Danny Gregory recently wrote a truly brave post regarding fear.  I’ve been ruminating on this topic quite a bit recently, and interestingly enough, over the past few weeks, I’ve been coming across references to one of my favorite books on the subject, which if you never read (in art school, or out, or whatever) you’d best find it– “Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmakingby David Bayles and Ted Orland. (1993, folks, and still as timely as ever.) Funny how when something is percolating, references keep showing up. Somehow, my old copy of Art&Fear has been missing. I was actually looking for it yesterday, in my studio, when a visitor happened to mention it in our conversation. No luck. Then this morning, reading some comments on Danny’s post “The Fears of a Clown“, there’s yet another reference to the book.. so bingo—-I look in my bookshelf (where I’ve looked a ton of times before), and find it immediately. (dust-covered.) Obviously I’m supposed to re-read it. So I will.

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 To quote Danny Gregory, again: “At their core, drawing, painting, clowning, all art, are about letting go, responding from your gut, trusting, working hard. Can you let go of all your preconceptions and finally, truly, truthfully see? Can you embrace and trust your audience rather than trying desperately to impress or con them?… Art is not entertainment. It is the way to what matters in our lives. To conquer our fears, we must face them, turn their ugly lies to beautiful truth, and share what we have made of them on the page or the stage.”

 Funny thing. As I’ve begun stopping the “trying”, I realize I no longer worry about what others think, so much. I’ve begun just “doing”. {I will not quote the famous footwear company here, but you know the deal}

“There is no try, there is only do.” Yoda

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