So then...

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Since the writing of my last blog post, “What if…” I’ve done some experimenting. In short, those experiments have gone really well (!) so I’ve entitled “So then…” That doesn’t always happen, but so far with this particular idea, it has.

See, a couple weeks ago, I woke up (at 2:17 AM) picturing a new type of artwork than I’ve ever done before, and all the tests and experiments I’ve done are remarkably encouraging. I think I’m onto something. Let me explain a bit more at this point…

I’m an oil painter and (not surprisingly) all my paintings are painted on a flat surface. Go to any of the art studios in Asheville’s River Arts District and notice what the painters are painting on. They are painting on flat surfaces. Go to an art museum and notice what all those framed oil paintings are painted on: flat surfaces. Noticing a trend?

But I’m going to paint on a flexible surface that can be bent in an arc shape. I have a furniture maker friend of mine (thank you Asheville Wood!) that is experimenting with me on this project. They are working on the wood runners (think cherry, black walnut, pecan, bamboo) that will be mounted to the wall (no visible attachments) and that will receive the panels of my artwork and keep them in tension, forming an arc out from the wall. That’s what I’m thinking, and so far, it’s working. I’m going now to the next step and actually fabricating a full size panel (rather than a small sample). I’ll cover the panel with flexible texture, Italian aluminum leaf, oil paint and resin. Resin is flexible? Yep. Turns out one or two layers are perfectly flexible and will provide brilliant color.

In theory, the colors I will apply to the panels will alter greatly because the angle of light will vary over the entire piece (because it’s bent in an arc). What’s in my head (and slowly coming to fruition) is a dynamic piece of artwork that can span many feet (either vertically or horizontally).

I’m excited!

People ask me all the time “when did you come up with this type of art?” and I always laugh and tell them I’m still coming up with it! I feel like I’m half artist and half mad scientist, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just too much fun.

The next post on this subject will be photos of the prototype. Fingers crossed!

What if...


I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night (!) with ideas. I try not to, but I can’t hep it. It just happens. That’s the curse of being “a creative”: you can’t plan (at all) when the muse will sing her song. When she sings, you listen.

So I was listening to my muse a few nights ago and I got excited about a new idea for artwork. All my artwork is flat. Duh. Go to an art museum and look at all the paintings. They…are…flat. But what if they weren’t flat at all? Who made up that rule anyway???

So I’m thinking of an idea I have to play with. It might bomb. I won’t know until I try, but in my head, it looks amazing. I see sail shapes in various configurations on a wall, billowing out into the room. Each sail is luminous, covered with aluminum (reflective) leaf and oil paint. And each sail is coated with a thin layer of resin to bring out and accentuate all the color. And in their billowing glory, they’re mounted in a row. Three of them together? Five? Seven? Three hundred? (just kidding, but still…)

See, this is how I think. It’s really frustrating sometimes. But I guess artists are supposed to be eccentric and unpredictable so I feel okay about this. What I see in my head is really beautiful. I need to play and experiment and this may be an awesome idea that should just remain in my head but I’ll not know that for sure until I try. I purchased all my materials today and I’m starting a new sort of painting after the holidays (between commissions).

Sails. Think sails. I can’t wait to see the result. And…I’ll post the photos whether it turns out well or not.

"Aqueous Dream"

Several months ago, I was asked to create a large installation piece of art for a design showroom in Oklahoma City (30A Home). The place is awesome and amazing and they are displaying one other installation piece (multiple panel art) and several single abstract paintings of mine already.

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This piece was an unexpected challenge. Ha! I have found that the term “unexpected” is usually applied to all my abstract paintings because they seem to have a mind of their own. I tell visitors to my art studio that painting an abstract painting is a bit like raising a teenager: they have their own mind and don’t like to be forced to conform to YOUR will. They have their own plan. It sounds almost metaphysical (sorry) but my job as a painter is to figure out what each abstract paintings “wants” to become. Landscape paintings are totally different. They’re like the super agreeable and responsible first born kid. An abstract piece is, uh….not like that. This particular abstract installation was a particularly challenging painting, in that I painted it twice. I originally had my own idea regarding what I wanted it to look like. So I spent several weeks applying paint and not liking it. So I worked on it more and arm wrestled it into compliance…and..then…

It won. It did not want to be what I wanted it to be. So I killed it. (It’s okay. It’s just a painting. I’m anthropomorphizing it.) So in a fit of rage (not really, but it makes a great story), I covered over every single panel with fresh aluminum leaf and…begun again.

This time, I just picked a color palette and let it have it’s say. And oh my gosh, even after the very first then application of paint, I was so glad I started over. I loved it. There’s got to be a life lesson here. I should write a parenting book I think. Anyway, after several more weeks of simply “listening” to what this piece wanted and complying; gently coercing it to my will here and there JUST A BIT, it turned into something I am so proud of. Wooo Hooo!

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A New Opportunity -- A New Idea

"Azure Spirals"

"Azure Spirals"

"Azure Spirals" close up

"Azure Spirals" close up

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Tony Morton, connected me to 30a Home, an incredibly cool company in Oklahoma City that is both an interior design warehouse (furniture and furnishings) as well as top notch interior design resource, working with builders, designers, architects, and one on one clients, providing ideas and resources for both residential and commercial projects.

Their headquarters / showroom is in Oklahoma City and it is beautiful. My assignment was to come up with several new abstract and installation pieces that would fit into this contemporary space, because 30a Home agreed to represent me. So...where to start?

In the middle of the night a couple weeks ago, the idea came to me (I don't know why this always seems to happen at 2:30 AM but that's pretty common for me). So I came up with a brand new way of creating an abstract oil painting. I am still (and always) painting on top of aluminum leaf (which reflects light back through the oil paint, creating vibrant color), but I figured out a way to leave some of that leaf raw (no paint at all), creating a painting that almost reminds me of batik -- with glimmering silver lines between fields of color. When the paint is all applied, then I cover the whole piece with solar-resistant resin.

I'm including photo examples of the first two pieces I did, "Azure Spirals" and "Aqua Matrix", but I have two more pieces nearly done, as well as a large triptych which is well underway. So...more photos will follow. The abstracts will be delivered to 30a Home in July, and a large installation piece scheduled for an October delivery.

I'm excited. People visiting my studio often ask me "When did you invent this type of artwork?" and I always laugh. I'M STILL INVENTING IT. That's what makes this job so much fun. Always dreaming, scheming and playing. Sometimes the results are awesome. And then...sometimes those ideas do not work at all. But photos of those bungles don't end up on this blog. :)

"Aqua Matrix"

"Aqua Matrix"

Autumnal Shift

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Abstract oil paintings are always mysterious to me. I have a vague idea of the color palette I want to use, but honestly, I have no idea what I'm doing. That's what I enjoy about painting an abstract piece. The piece itself really kind of evolves by itself and I sometimes just feel like I'm only involved in the gentlest of ways. I tell people painting an abstract painting is like raising a teenager -- you might as well not even bother trying to make it this or that because in the end, it kind of makes up its own mind. It's good for us control freaks to paint abstract art I think. 

This painting entitled "Autumnal Shift" (thank you to Kris Archbold on my Facebook feed for the title!). It has a lot of texture -- vertical and horizontal scratches and raised areas, and then finished with just a bit of judiciously applied gold leaf. 

When I posted the photo of this piece on my Facebook page, I asked people what they saw, and what it should be named. It was an interesting and very well received little exercise. People saw a city scene on a river, tall ships and hilltops on fire. That's what I like about abstract art. It's almost like staring at the clouds -- abstract invites the participation of the viewer. "What is it?" you ask. Ahhh -- now I've got you. You must get involved and figure it out. What is it? What do you see?

“Abstraction allows man to see with his mind what he cannot see physically with his eyes....Abstract art enables the artist to perceive beyond the tangible, to extract the infinite out of the finite. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas.” -- Arshile Gorky

the breakers

"the breakers" (18" x 24")

"the breakers" (18" x 24")

This was was...uh...interesting. I hear people come in my studio and say silly things to each other like "well remember, there are NO MISTAKES in art". Rubbish. I've made them all. I originally started this one several weeks ago and I liked the idea: very subtle gray, dark, muted colors. Anyway, it should have been hanging on my wall this last month except I was so disgusted with the original version of it that I took my paint-thinner soaked rag to it and wiped off as much paint as I could, then completely re-covered it with aluminum leaf and started over. This time, I switched gears and went with aquatic colors. As usually, I had no idea what was going to happen in this abstract as it progressed, but the very last day of paint application, it took the form of an abstracted seascape: waves crashing. I was very happy. 

So the next time you hear someone say something ridiculous like "there are no mistakes in art", just butt in please and tell them "uh...you mean there are no mistakes that can't be corrected". Happily, most "mistakes" can indeed be remedied with some grit and determination. 

So enjoy "the breakers".

The Three Voices
by Robert W. Service

The waves have a story to tell me, 
As I lie on the lonely beach; 
Chanting aloft in the pine-tops, 
The wind has a lesson to teach; 
But the stars sing an anthem of glory
I cannot put into speech. 

The waves tell of ocean spaces, 
Of hearts that are wild and brave, 
Of populous city places, 
Of desolate shores they lave, 
Of men who sally in quest of gold
To sink in an ocean grave. 

The wind is a mighty roamer; 
He bids me keep me free, 
Clean from the taint of the gold-lust, 
Hardy and pure as he; 
Cling with my love to nature, 
As a child to the mother-knee. 

But the stars throng out in their glory, 
And they sing of the God in man; 
They sing of the Mighty Master, 
Of the loom his fingers span, 
Where a star or a soul is a part of the whole, 
And weft in the wondrous plan. 

Here by the camp-fire's flicker, 
Deep in my blanket curled, 
I long for the peace of the pine-gloom, 
When the scroll of the Lord is unfurled, 
And the wind and the wave are silent, 
And world is singing to world.


"Glacial Fractures in situ"

"Glacial Fractures" (45" x 70")

"Glacial Fractures" (45" x 70")

Every now and then, I receive a very welcomed email from a client that a includes a photo of one of my paintings hanging in it's new home. The piece shown here, entitled "Glacial Fractures", was shipped to Chicago and is now part of someone's home. Honestly, this is still so weird and wonderful to me -- the idea that I can express myself very personally on a canvas, and then that part of me -- this "thing" I made is now detached from me completely and becomes part of the life and home of another. It's pretty cool really. It's kind of like conceiving and giving birth to a baby daughter, watching her grow up and then leave you to get married (moving to Chicago in this case). Sorry for the lame analogy, but my daughter Ceilidh IS getting married this Friday so I have that whole theme on the front burner of my brain right now. So exciting. 

Back to Business...

Next week, I'm back in my art studio in Asheville and though I've absolutely enjoyed the break, I'm really anxious to get back to the paintings I started a couple weeks ago, and I'm really enthused to get going on some brand new ideas I have now (this always happens when I take time to rest). 

And (drum roll)...I will actually be finishing up my "Big Mama" 6' x 8' painting this next week. More on that to come. This of course means that this piece, "Cullesaja Falls" will have taken a full year to complete. Whew!

Glacial Fractures

"Glacial Fractures"  (45" x 70")

"Glacial Fractures"  (45" x 70")

About a month ago ago, I was asked to work on a commission. They requested an abstract painting based on the general idea of some other abstracts I've done in the past but they (very helpfully) requested I use the colors in Degas' "The Green Dancer" (shown below).

The reason I loved this assignment was, well, there were two reasons...First, I didn't have to search for colors that would work and second, it was so much fun color matching one of Degas' most famous pieces. 

So my River Arts District art studio has been full of this really large painting now for about a month. It is scheduled to get its first layer of resin in the next couple of days (as soon as I get the gold leaf on the edges), and then it ships to Chicago. Honestly, I am going to miss looking at this one. 

I named this piece "Glacial Fractures" because it when I stand back and ask what it wanted to be called, the night time image of towering glaciers in Antarctica came to mind. Of course, the glaciers are lit from within (probably due to the aliens trapped in the ice). Ha ha. Don't you go rolling your eyes at me. I'm an X-Files geek. I can't help myself. 

Color Explosion

abstract commission

The thing I really enjoy about a abstract wall art is that it feels as though I have very little control over the thing. It really does feel like it has a mind of it's own. This piece (above) is a studio photo of what is the largest abstract oil painting I've done. I was given several photos of the room in which it will eventually hang, and then my task was to design an abstract painting that complimented that space and would be a real statement piece. So I had an idea of the colors I was going to use, but that's all.

As I began several weeks ago, I felt like I had some good "movement" going on with the texture I applied. When that texture was done and covered with metallic leaf, then I began the actual paint application, and that's when the fun starts. I just almost randomly chose the first color and a large paint brush and dove right in. What I've learned is that I really need to apply one color at a time to my paintings and let those colors dry before I apply the next layer. This takes days and days, but slowly the piece begins developing into something interesting. Then,  it's a matter of looking critically at the piece and determine what is "growing" that you want to develop and accentuate, and what might need to be minimized (visual dead ends). It's kind of like working in a garden -- mulching the plants and pulling the weeds until everything you want growing is mature and beautiful and everything that should not be there is gone.

This painting is headed out to it's new home in Knoxville, TN in a couple weeks (after it gets the resin application).

Of Ruination and Rescue

I'm going to be rather vulnerable here. There's a big part of me that would like to create the impression that as an artist, I always know what I'm doing, but that wouldn't really be true. Most of the time, I do feel very confident with what I paint but then there are times that make me realize I have so much yet to learn. This week, I almost ruined a 4' x 5' painting. 

The oil painting in question is a very large abstract, and as I've explained in past blogs, I am never in complete control of an abstract painting. They really do have a mind of their own. Well, it turns out this painting had self-destructive tendencies I had to deal with. I had thought I was about half done with paint application and I kind of liked where it was going and was having fun working on it. Then two days ago, I was applying paint, a little here, a lot over there, more paint here, scrape off some there, and eventually I stood back and realized I'd just completely ruined the piece. So I was going to let it all dry and then re-cover it all with aluminum leaf and start all over again. 

I felt like God just before the flood, regretting even making this monstrosity. I was ready for the 40 days and 40 nights of deluge and looking forward (though rather defeated feeling) to starting over. 

That's when Joy stepped to the back of my studio and took a look at it. "Oh, that's really bad," she whispered. (She's honest like that.) And I said I was going to have to start all over. Then she suggested just wiping off all the paint I had just applied that day and then taking a look at it the next day with fresh eyes. So I did, and something really weird happened. When I wiped off the fresh paint, a little paint film still stuck to the rest of the piece; a fog of blues, greens and whites. Hmmmm. Interesting. That slight film I was unable to remove completely softened the whole thing and brought everything together. 

The next morning I came in and was not repulsed (always a good sign) and was able to completely save the piece. Whew. 

There is a lesson here I think.