In order to make successful paintings, you have to make a lot of unsuccessful paintings. Each one you make is a building block to the next. There is no such thing as a waste of time if you make a bad piece. You’re simply learning how to make it better next time. In this post I’d like to show a few of my more successful older pieces, and go into some of the details surrounding where they come from. I’ve been told by quite a few people and artists that I trust at this point that I need to “settle down” and to stop jumping from style to style with each piece if I want to get picked up by a gallery already. While I would like that very much, I also really enjoy varying my style. I get comments however that my portfolio looks like it’s work from several different artists. Not everyone says this, and I have gotten feedback from a few people who say they can see the same hand in all, but it’s a less often made observation. I understand the need to remain recognizable, but after a month or more of creating an indirect painting, layering layer after layer of glazes, I need to paint thick and chunky with a palette knife and slop the paint onto the surface and take joy in the sheer act of painting! I love what I can achieve with the slow approach, but the active aspect of painting thick and the expression you can get with the paint strokes is SO GOOD.

Queen Small
The Queen of Bones, 2006 Linda Wandt

 

I made the Queen of Bones in my painting II class. I fully admit it was a little too intense for people watching me make it. It’s the result of a bad relationship with a poet, a line from one of his poems about our bad relationship (“Heart of Sticks, Heart of Stones, No One Owns the Queen of Bones”) and a trip to the MET in NYC where I saw a collection of African Funerary Masks on display. While it shows off my lack of planning and technical skill at the time, it still holds up to me, a decade later, as a strong piece. It’s about death and change, and it’s incredibly personal. It’s glazed with damar varnish around the borders, which means it would be difficult to clean up if I had ever wanted to do so. The writing at the top and bottom is vine charcoal – under the damar. Look, it’s a mess. I’m proud of it, but I didn’t understand the materials yet. We learn best from mistakes though. If we aren’t making mistakes, we aren’t trying new things. A quick word on Damar Resin – while it’s a very traditional ingredient, I personally believe it is no longer needed in painting. Since it’s a true resin, it will yellow with time. I’d need actual turpentine to remove it from the piece, and that stuff is awful.

Gemini Twins_S6
Gemini, 2006 Linda Wandt

This is the last painting I made in school. I created a collage from images I cut up from Art in America magazines and I liked it enough to create a painting off of it. Each element is a different painting, I added in the background, mirrored the figure and tied the two figures together by extending the feathers into a bridge connecting the two figures. I became very intrigued by metaphysics for a while, before realizing what a giant waste of time it had become. It’s important to question both reality and our place in it, but only up to a certain point, when it becomes more important to stop sitting around pondering questions that might not have answers and go do something with yourself. I am a firm believer in positive existentialism – it is up to each individual to create their own meaning. I find comfort in the knowledge that I am a speck of dust in the universe and that I am empowered to create my place in it, for whatever that is worth. I am a somewhat indecisive individual at times as well, so I am fascinated by duality and the choices we make when creating ourselves. The theme of “versus” pops up in the paintings a lot. Gemini, the twins, represent two halves of the same whole. They are two sides to the same entity.  I’ve been asked about the little figure of the man in the yellow shirt. Does it ruin anything to admit I left him there because I think it’s humorous? He’s quite out of place, but so is everything else, so it felt fitting to leave him when all I had really wanted was the splash of yellow to make up the shirt.

Linda Wandt
My Sister Subconscious, 2010 Linda Wandt

 

This piece is called “My Sister Subconscious” and it was made in 2010. I sold it during a music festival I had a table set up at in downtown Austin. A man came over to my table where I was selling $10 prints and asked me how much the painting cost. It would be really bad form for me to admit how little I sold this piece for, in hindsight, but it was during a short period of unemployment and this sale ensured I would have electricity for another month, which was wonderful. It was a wonderful thing indeed. He whipped out his wallet, handed me cash, and asked me to mail it to him in Houston. I was speechless, and elated, and it felt like a lot of money at the time. This painting represents the conscious mind, which is blind, and the subconscious seeing eye. It is also about duality, and there is also a bridge present, the strange shape separating the two faces. I’m interested in the spark that exists between our minds and our physical bodies, but I can never delve any deeper into that mystery of consciousness then I can explore with these images.

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Illusion of light

Hello! My name is Linda Wandt, and I’ve been considering starting a blog to chart my adventures in oil painting for a long time, so I’m happy I’ve finally found the time and motivation to do so. I plan to use this blog to discuss thoughts on painting, and to delve into some of the more technical aspects of oil painting as I learn. Oil painting is a isolating activity, and while I enjoy that most of the time, I thought this would be a good forum to share what I have learned over the years and to maybe start discussions with like minded painters, or even those who are just curious.

I’ve been painting with oils for about 13 years now. I’ve always drawn and made art, and I’ve made some really terrible acrylic paintings in high school. I used oils for the first time in college, and it seriously blew open my world. I went from making pretty bad art to making pretty decent art. I learned how to stretch my own canvases in school as well, so I started making canvases so large I could feel enveloped in the painting while I was working on it. I wanted to be surrounded by the image on all sides. Eventually I learned to scale down, since storing large canvases is definitely a hassle, but from time to time I still make them.

Once I graduated with a BA in Studio Art, I of course couldn’t find a job. Eventually I started working at an art supply store, and I realized how much I didn’t learn in art school. I knew next to nothing about all the options in the oil paint isle. Walnut oil vs linseed oil? What’s with all these different animal hairs available in brushes? What the heck is linen anyway? I purchased several books on artists materials and I spent the next 6 years that I worked there studying these materials. I created a two hour demonstration and lecture to present what I learned (and to really force myself to learn it). I have been giving this demo at the store now once every 3-6 months for several years, and it’s resulted in my being hired outside of the store to present this information to small art groups. So it goes without saying, I got really dorky about this topic. I feel very strongly that the more you understand the materials available, the more empowered you are to create the art you want to make. It’s especially important with oil painting because there are a lot of confusing options out there, and since oil painting is so chemistry based, it’s easy to make a mistake that could destroy your painting. There was a very experimental period (oh, say, ever since people started to try to figure out what exactly it had been the Flemish masters had used as their mediums) and a great deal of art didn’t survive the experimental mediums. All the way up to the 1950’s-80’s when painters rejected The Rules and tradition and started doing things like using oil paint on raw canvas without sizing first to protect the canvas from the acidic oil paint. Painters started using house paint. They started thinning oil paint with too much solvent intentionally.

Painting has a really fascinating history. Heck, pigments alone have really fascinating stories.

I had a teacher in college who once told me that it takes about 5 years of painting for most people to figure out they have too much paint on the brush. I didn’t quite understand what he meant. Roughly 5 years into painting it clicked, and I remembered his saying that. That being said, one of the things I love about oil painting is the versatility. You can paint thick and chunky alla prima, which is incredibly expressive, or you can slowly build up the layers and create the illusion of light with glazing, which lends itself to realism.

Artesima Zapp

This is a tiny little 8 x 8 inch painting on wood panel. This particular bee, Artemesia, was created in 5 layers, each layer laying the foundation for the layer that went above it. Most of it was done with a #2 round sable brush. It’s all in the details for me, I love zoning out into each little hair and finding that sweet spot where nothing else occupies my mind except for the amount of oil in the mix. I have never successfully meditated, unless you count while working. I can’t truly quiet my mind, but I find this to be the next best thing, having one thing to fully focus on for extended periods of time. I’ll make a post dedicated fully to the Honey Bee Series at a later time. For now I just want to show the level of realism possible.