Thursday, July 28, 2011


Loose vs. Tight (the never ending saga)
So I started this 30"x40" painting on a birch panel with a 1-5/8 cradle, a while ago.  It was based on a photograph of the intersection at Sloat and 45th Avenue.  I drove around taking pictures from out of my windshield as the sun set.  I was looking for interesting shadows and things that break up the sky.  San Francisco is a beautiful place, but the things I am looking for are kind of mundane and everyday, and could be found in any city.  I like power lines, traffic lights, and odd silhouettes. I am looking for abstract views of the city. My thinking is I don't want to end up with a landscape painting (but of course that is exactly what I will end up with), however, that is not what draws my eye.  Like most painters, I am thinking about light, composition and space.  These are my favorite elements.
Also, as some people know, I have recently been toying with the idea of going looser and more abstract with my work.  Ha!  It is easier said than done for a compulsive person like me. I don’t even know what questions to ask, except for “when is it finished?”  I figure a painting like that could go on forever.  It would be fun, but really exhausting.  In any case, here I am showing my first efforts. 

The first day was a refinement of a sketch that was full of earth tones and very drippy.  I painted the sky my usual mixture of Naples yellow, flake white, raw umber, a little cerulean blue, dammar, linseed oil and safflower oil.  (The safflower oil was intended to slow the drying time, and was volunteered by my studio mate and paint mixologist Scott Inguito,  He is an expert in old master techniques and arcane solvents.  Want to know how Rembrandt did it?  Ask Scott.  He also does wonderful paintings of El Caminos with and without burnouts.)  I planned to hit the yellow the next day with a mixture of cerulean blue, flake white, and black, lightly applied with a long bristled, bristle brush.  The plan was that the firmed up yellow would show through the alternating grooves with the blue and create this iridescent shimmering sky.  The lamp posts and such needed to be wet so that their edges were not sharp against the sky, the two hues of paint lying on top of each other, but rather possessing a furred quality, as if the lamp posts were embedded in the sky.
Day two.  This is usually my favorite part of the painting, but I was a little short on time and the painting could not go another day.  It would be too dry.  I re-oiled the lamp posts and signal lights.  I mixed up the cerulean in a bit of a rush and when I put it over the yellow it came out too…blue.  The Naples yellow was drier than I wanted it to be, so maybe it wasn’t coming through the blue enough.  Maybe it was too much cerulean.  In any case I wanted a steelier, lighter feel and it was.. just… blue!  Crap!  I took a big soft nylon brush and blurred and smoothed out the entire surface.  I did not want any unrelated brush strokes left on the painting and I knew I was not going to get to it again when it was wet.  My window was gone.  I have to say it looked interesting, but too bad it was too early in the painting process and not what I was going for.

Day three, at this point a week had gone by.  At first I replaced some sign posts lost from using the nylon brush, and then added detail and color in the 45th Avenue sign and the red in the signal. (I am very judicious with my use of color.  I find color too easy, too seductive and I much prefer the color palette of Morandi to Matisse).  I tried repainting the sky.  Nothing helped, it was not working.  So I took my palette knife and scraped the whole thing off.  Crap!  I wasted 200 ml of paint.  I will have to continue this when I have a longer chunk of time.  My daughter Makiko says to stay positive or I will lose my audience.  She is 10 btw.  So looking forward, I might keep/add more drippy and blurry parts in the bottom part of the painting.  Maybe sharpen up the top part.  I don’t know if I can get a way with both things in one painting.  Philip Guston did this beautifully.  Gerhard Richter did it in a more dissonant way.  At this point I am not sure if I will get anything at all, but I am ever hopeful.  To be continued... 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nice to get Feedback

My palette area

center with Elmo

Elmo in Shanty Town

I love my communal studio space!!!!  I love this social media.  I don’t know if everyone knows this but I used to paint decades ago. I had a couple of great galleries showing my work and selling.  I had regular sales with the Washington State Arts Commission.  I got one almost two of my paintings in the Swig Collection.  I even went to an art colony in upstate New York for a month.  Then I stopped.  I had issues, priorities, marriage, then no marriage and one wonderful baby girl, who is 10 now.  So I am back and it is great.  I am like a person who wandered out of the desert and is drinking art like crazy.  When I was doing it before I think I felt a little bit (OK, I felt a lot) of guilt about doing it.  People were saving the world and there I was spending my days rendering nude women, dogs, and fish in oil paint.  And painting was something that someone was always saying was dead.  In any case, I felt like I was getting away with something huge by being a painter.  Now for some reason that feeling is gone.

Anyway, in the ten years I’ve been gone, things have really changed.  The art is different of course, (flat paint is in), the community is a lot different and there is all this social networking that is really nice, which means less promotional drudgery and postage.  I feel like Rip Van Winkle.  I feel like a dinosaur.  As Rom Sleeper Nisnian Jr., another studio mate, says about me, compared with most painters nowadays “you throw a lot of paint”.  I paint thick.  Also before I stopped painting, I worked at home.  Now I paint at Art Explosion at the corner of 17th and Potrero, in a huge community art space we lovingly call Shanty Town.  I have found my people.  Most of all, I like how everyone shares and communicates.  Things are not as mysterious.  I learn so much when I am just hanging out, not smoking, in Shanty Town.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Cigarette Series

  "The Seduction" 8"x8"
This series started as a guilty secret on the side.  I was officially painting a cityscape and I started sneaking cigarette paintings on these little 4”x4” panels that I had left over from Spring Open Studios at Art Explosion.  What got me started was this NPR news piece I heard on the radio in my Cousin Larry’s car when Tom (my wonderful boyfriend) was driving us all to a Polihua Beach on Lanai, through red dust and big red rocks.  It was an interview with the Prime Minister of Iceland.  She was saying that cigarettes were going to be illegal there and that you could only buy them if you had a doctor’s note and only at pharmacies.  They could only be smoked at home and only if the smoke didn’t bother the neighbors.  I thought this is it!  Cigarettes are truly becoming contraband.  I always felt like an outlaw when it came to smoking.  When I would see an officer of the law or my mother I would automatically feel nervous about the pack of Marlboro lights in my purse.  I loved smoking, but I am really glad I don’t smoke anymore.  I like painting cigarettes better than smoking them.

cig 2
cig 3
cig 4

(The cig names are temporary and they are 4"x4")