on painting: in the night studio


Painting is not the same as illustration. painting is more than image, it is also surface. it has the weight of object; it has presence. for me illustration is to draw something and then fill it in with color and refine details with a mind toward clarity, because it is so often intended to be reproduced. in some ways, painting is about destroying the original drawing and trying to not refine so much. i seldom make a larger acrylic painting on canvas, so i usually ruin the first one remembering how to do it. if i stay focused, by the time i start the second, i am more on my game, have some flow, and have figured out the paint again. I am about halfway finished with the fox painting.

unless you paint seriously everyday, it is difficult to make anything worthwhile. it is like you have to teach yourself how to do it again. i talk with another painter almost daily and we agree that the awkward stages paintings tend to go through are terrifying; it looks like it won't come together and you have to fight your desire to ditch.

its in the problem solving of creating a composition with a pleasing marriage of order and complexity that a path opens up. i paint flat on a table which makes it easy to get too "precious" with the visual elements because i am too close to it. a painting needs to be hung up and stood back from and looked at again and again so you see it in totality and how it looks in space. i am reminded of some photographs of mark rothko sitting before his work waiting for the painting to tell him what to do next. if anything. with the thrasher painting on the left, i went too far, though it has some cool sections where other birds morph in and out of negative space. but i over worked it and have to start a third painting now.

i have been working on these for the entire week, staying late at night alone at the warehouse. i listen to ambient chill internet radio from france or the "drone zone" and i keep my loading dock open until the bugs, drawn to the light, end up embedded in wet paint. when i go home, i am still with the painting(s) and have trouble falling asleep. i really just want to go back to work.

im writing this post because its clear im not going to have these finished by tomorrow. the first painting was the brown thrasher and it has gotten too busy and "illustratey", though there were some important discoveries that i could apply to the second painting, the fox.

I remembered how much i like controlled drips and lots of sheer layers over textured backgrounds i lay in by scraping paint dipped cardboard across the canvas. i also like to etch into wet paint and overlay that area which allows the new color to seep into the grooves.

It is difficult to make a good painting; one that really sings with vitality and is true to my vision of how it should be. It is the hardest thing i do as an artist. painting is a spiritual path in that you dont know what it is you are searching for, but when you find it you know it is right and true. and it is a moment of true contentment. its a time free of anxiety that is filled with the delight of creation.

but it cant be rushed. so if you are reading this my friend, i only have one of the two (almost) ready.

(i did manage to finally finish the two panels below)


  1. I do, whether complete to your standard or not, love the vibrancy of the color. It catches the eye and forces the vision through the entire canvas.

    The fox for example with the dark bird over it and the dark shadow on it's back; my eye could not decide if it was a natural color of the fur or a shadow of the bird. But then was drawn to the white underbelly and from there through the rest of the painting.

    The two completed panels it is the color that causes the eye to make the birds move among the flowers.

    I do know the dilemma though. When is enough enough.

  2. They are both wonderful, but I love your fox very muchly. :) I think the contrast of his white chest and his dark paws and the black bird just make it sing!

    I was thinking about what you said, that you need to paint seriously every day to make something worthwhile happen. I think it's like that with writing, too. It's almost like you once learned a foreign language, but if you don't speak it for a little while, when you do, you're a little choppy - you forget nouns and verb tenses. :)

    That being said, I love everything you paint/draw/write. I aspire to being as good as you are on one of your awkward days!

  3. I agree with above. we all need to practice our art, show up on the page, as our teachers used to say in order to be any good. it's a form of respect. I'm having a hard time revising the mystery I had so much fun posting on blog and i know it's because i have to remind myself how to do it everytime i sit down. if i sat with it every day, that wouldn't be the issue.

    i enjoyed your posting, A. Sharing the thought process is another way of showing up. you answered some questions i had about the layering process, so thanks.

  4. I hope in my next life I can have the talent of painting. I sooo love everything you do!

  5. I love how you explain your artwork and some of the methods you use to create textures...my problem is that I dont paint enough...I am truly an amateur.

    I get an idea in my mind of what I would like to paint, even the colours but sometimes it just doesn't work and I get too anxious and 'uptight' and give up...just as well I dont paint to earn a living.

    There have not been many occasions where everything has flowed and I have enjoyed the painting process but I know what you mean when you know what you have painted is true and right...its a great feeling.

    Do you use oil paints or acrylics or both as I have noticed that some of your works are described as being painted on 'board'?

    I love your brilliant colours and textures, that 'insert' of the corner of the fox painting is lovely and that is one fine looking fox, his fur looks so plush.

    I also like your little dedication to Ski, he looks so cute in all of his colours. ♥

  6. walking man: what you said about the eye traveling all over the canvas: that is important. and thanks for the comment on color -i think that is probably my strongest asset - my color sense. what is interesting about the last 2 panels is that the red one is highly textured and has lots of embedded elements under layers that show through while the turquoise side is smooth and clear of layers. that contrast is a nice mix that i will apply to another painting in the future. er...4:45? AM?!?!

    yoborobo: oh you are too sweet! thank you. your comment about language is a terrific metaphor. i have to say if i am ever as prolific as you are then i will be thrilled. youve been on a creative spurt yourself and ive loved your diversion into the collages and the blackbird doll.

    ABG: well right now you have a full plate, but i think this time is a good time for you to "sit with it everyday". i liked what you said about showing up on the page as a form of respect. how true that is. re: posting the mystery: are you talking about "how to distinguish scents"? most artists i know have this same issue -once youve made something good -can you do it again? being with it/in it everyday is the answer. but its hard. cause life also requires our presence. good to see you out and about.

    dani: how about we trade next lives?

    troll: grrrrrrherhahahaha. thanks troll. dont worry, i wont over work this one. it just needs a bit of cleaning up - theres some loose ends and that allium halo thing needs to be dulled down a bit, and the fur needs attention..... and and gaH!!! stop me. grrrrrherhahaha

  7. dianne: that "anxious and uptightness" you wrote about is the classic awkward stage. thats exactly when you must push through. somethings should be ditched, of course, but i find giving up too soon means that you miss valuable lessons in painting waiting for you. go ahead and finish, and if its not a good painting then so be it. but finish. and start again.

    i use maple panels when i have the money for them. i like to paint onto something hard -canvas that gives a bit under the paintbrush annoys me. but, it is cheaper and so i have worked past that. the thrasher and fox are on canvases.

    what i have seen of your art is wonderful. you should keep going with it and post lots and lots of photos. and, thanks for noticing ol ski. i wish i still had him but he was just too big. poor thing. wasnt his fault.

  8. I also think they are beautiful ...

    and that said I do understand a bit of what you speak of. Not really a painter, ever, myself mostly because just the mere thoughts of it frightens me. That large blank canvas staring back at you, learning the ability to pause, take a break and come back to it, knowing "when" to let it be - all has always seemed far too daunting to me. Do you ever add collage bits to your paintings ? that close up corner of the fox just made me think of bits of pages from old books or letters peaking subtly through.

    When I get that CE of mine really cookin' I'd love to commission you to do a canvas of my big red boy - I love the way you layer symbolism and meaning in both your paintings and illustrations. I know that you would capture the essence of that big huge love.

    Yes ... wine label. I'm going to enter for sure and I must get brainstorming this weekend - although I bet you'll win.

    And I don't have anything with galison.com but I am compiling a list of potential places to submit work to and when that list is complete I'll send you a copy - we can CE build together.

    kisses to Trout from Missy D and have a fantastic weekend xo S.

  9. are these paintin's for a client?

    Very "hot" palate from your normal work. Fox's face is good.

  10. Quite the week you are having! I agree, color is decidedly one of your strong points but not the only one. You are very good at evoking a mood in response to the complexities, the sub-stories and all the layers.

    I think you made a good call to remake the Thrasher and am looking forward to the detailing of the Fox. Did you find it more fun or more challenging to work in this larger than normal scale?

    God luck with the deadlines!

  11. well, danged if we don't have a brown thresher in the bushes out front AND a fox that tracks along our property line.
    'Course, yours is prettier than that scruff of a cat food thief....I know what he's up to.
    Liked the bunch of them!
    Huge panels!

  12. I am always overcome with some type of emotion when I read your blog. I think it is for many reasons, loving your vision for one thing and for another that I am vicariously enjoying your act of being a painter. I am an artist who for many reasons stopped but lives trapped in a heart that longs to be that again. I couldn't make enough money doing it and needed a living so now work selling vintage photos which I dearly love like children each one I sell but the color, the canvas the creation...that is something that cannot be replaced. Maybe one day when I retire I will paint.. does anyone retire anymore.. can you stop being an artist? I don't think so, only the painting stops. the heart is still there. I love your work and even as much your writing about it!
    sleep well, Marianne

  13. i think regardless of what media you work with, the trick while creating is trying to look at the art with a fresh eye ..
    i sometimes completely step away, walk away and then abrubtly turn and try to see the work from a different perspective ..

    i do think it is hard to paint well. but you do so very well. i love the close up detail .. the textures created by the scritches and scratches ..
    and actually, from where i'm sitting i'm really liking the thrasher painting. i like how the right side of the thrasher is in detail and very subtly fades out toward the left to match the hues of the background.

  14. i like popart sky btw .. lol ..
    i'm glad you got those great gangly photos of him.

  15. Wow. I am thrilled to hear of your processes for some odd reason. I don't paint but know when some Photoshop creation is calling me, so I understand the not wanting to sleep until finished. I love that fox and his crown of flowers. But I love the thrush too. Gorgeous stuff. Fun with a purpose.

  16. You have such a way with colour. I, too, love the fox.

  17. 0445 is the middle of the day

  18. those are absolutely beautiful...and that fox, what a heartwarmer!

    I loved hearing about your process and seeing part of your work space. fantastic!

  19. I've snuck away from spaaaaaa to take a peek!!!!

    Glad I didn't miss this.

    xoxox. What a great post.

  20. I love this...thanks for the glimpse into the way you work....

  21. susan: funny you say you are not a painter yet you paint all the time -yet i know what you mean. i often have said that illustration was in many ways a better skill set because you really need to be able to draw -where as with painting you might not ever make an image at all and still be quite successful. i like both. and im going to have to work harder at the CE since my gigs have dropped to near nada.

    i do add collage sometimes. if you look at that bluebird at the top of my sidebar you will see postage stamps under the paint.

    id love to paint your big red! xo to you and the pack

    shamu: no!

    aunty: yep. and i might actually get paid upon delivery even. yip yip yip! thanks about the fox...will finish it today.

    fishy: its getting easier (working larger) but my natural size really is in the area of 9x12 - probably from the illustration biz. the biggest challenge is getting a good photograph of the larger work. and thanks for your kind words about the work. i appreciate that!

    boney: did you know a brown thrasher has a song as complex as his cousin the mockingbird?the thrasher isnt as loud. he is the state bird of georgia and one of my favorites.

    marianne: no you never stop being an artist nor do you retire. nobody will ever retire again and thats a good thing. photography is obviously art as well but i agree with you that there is something very special about putting brush to blank surface and having an image materialize. good to see you and thanks for stopping by.

    foamy: thank you! i knew youd like the texture - your work seems to be textural even your photos are that way somehow. i like how the thrasher has areas of quiet to balance all the noise on the bottom of the canvas. im glad you like it - the client did too so i can move on to another subject when i paint again. i need to do a painting for a wine label contest this week. about ski: i miss him. he was a good bird.

    pamokc: yeah you are really good on the photoshop! im glad you like these paintings and enjoyed reading a bit about the process. the best book i ever read on the act of painting was an interview with francis bacon. amazing book. ive read it several times actually. thanks so much.

    faery: thank you so much! i hope to complete the fox today so i can deliver it. what is GIMP?

    walkingman: for you maybe. grrrrrherhahaha i get it. writer's quiet time.

    into the trees: i love seeing art studios too. have you ever looked at "artists who blog?" theres lots of studio pix on there. good to see ya!

    boxer: what!? you snuck off the massage table? grrhahaha are you relaxed a beautiful? did you sneak in vodka to have with your soy wheatgrass concoction? grherha! thanks for coming by. xo

    hilary: you are most welcome. and thanks for coming by!

  22. Oh my...I saw the 2 panels in progress last October, wow! Gorgeous :)
    Friend, the bottom line here: The real treasure is you.

    I have 2 things I want to send to Chickory- could I mail them to the "Fishbone" studio? Is Betty still there? If not, email or text me a good address for you- or I can go the way of the Ga studio.
    I found something in DC that let me know you were close by :) and then a home-made thing I picked up that I fell in love with, but it might be better if I gave that one to you in person, it's kind of big :)

    Hugs and I miss you. And please- we're even on the b-days :) I always know you wish me well, and you know the same is true of me :)

  23. Hey there! You asked about photoshop brushes ... so here's where I get some of mine:


    www.obsidiandawn.com (you'll have to do a search for photoshop brushes on this site though)


    The fairy pic just below my mute monday has many brushes -- some of the butterflies, the trees in the background, the vines, etc. I don't do art, can't draw a thing, but I can stamp a photoshop brush and be very happy :)

  24. Oh! And don't forget deviantart.com either! Another place where you just have to run a search to find PS brushes.

  25. http://motorcityburningpress.

    Competition announcement open to all comers. About two weeks left to submit.

    Hey $50 is $50

  26. I'm too exhausted to form a coherent comment (ever notice how you need a vaycay after getting back from vaycay?), but just wanted to drop by and say howdy, tell you we missed you, and that I blew away a fitness instructor with an AK47. I'll be back later!


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