I’ve been making art for a good long while now, but there’s an arts professional key element that honestly, I have never challenged myself to perform. Not really, not like this. That thing? Sitting down and figuring out an entire body of work, or a series, before making the first piece. I have the other artists of Ingrained, a group show I was invited to participate in, to thank for this experience of truly enhancing how I create. This show is scheduled to open July 24th at The Georgetown Art Center in Georgetown, TX. The other artists are Alicia Philley, Aimeé Everett, Caroline Walker and Thomas Cook. We all have very different styles and topics but we all work on wood panels for this show, allowing the grain of the wood to play a role in our imagery or message. Check out our IG @Ingrained_ATX to see everyone’s work. We are working toward a website too, here. Due to the pandemic, we are exploring virtual options for an “opening” or at least getting some great video and stills of the show. It will never replace seeing an art work in person, and we are hoping we can do some by appointment viewings as well.
On to the process for this series. As of this writing, I am about to begin the last two panels. I was invited to participate in this show because of my honey bee series from 2014-2016 (which I just made one at a time, as i felt like it around other projects.).
Theses panel paintings were all 8 x 8” with a very rare 12 x 12”, little pieces that I could basically hold over my lap and in my face as I worked on painting each little hair with a tiny round sable brush. They took 6 or so layers to complete and the detail involved was really satisfying to me, painting one of these was a very trance like, zen experience of hyper focus and mainly paying attention to how much oil was in my paint. So my fellow artists asked if I wanted to work with them on a show where I could make this type of painting, but BIGGER. I said HECK YES. Bigger, more complex and pushing myself to explore new things? Into it.
The bees come from a painting that also had venus fly traps in it. I took this theme up again, but wanted to explore other pollinators and other carnivorous plants – there are some truly amazing, curious evolutions of these plants. While representing something not fully understood and delicate, they also, to me, represent how short and brutal existence can be. Watching video of a critter falling into a pitcher plant is definitely distressing. It’s the cycle of life, but it’s hard to watch and makes me very grateful to be so high on the food chain. I am fascinated by them, and in awe. I wanted to explore mirrored compositions that touch on art deco designs, with lots of leaves, but simplified due to time constraints. Well into this series, I realized an aspect of the inspiration for their look is the opening credit sequence for a Netflix show called ‘Dark’. Inspiration comes from every where, it sneaks in and sits, waiting, even if I don’t even realize it til way into the game.
First, I had to explore the materials and see how it would go scaling up from 8 x 8” to the 30 x 30” I wanted to work with. I’d have gone larger if my studio space and time had allowed it. I did some small experiments and painted one pitcher plant two times – one as direct color, and one with a grey scale underpainting to compare the finished results. I decided to do the majority of the work with the grisaille – grey underpainting with glazed color on top. I sat down and did so many thumbnail sketches. It was not as painful as I had been expecting it to be. I worked out most of the details of what pollinators I wanted to focus on and what carnivorous plant I wanted to pair them with and played with the compositions – some fell into place perfectly, others took a much longer time to get right. The moth one that I am about to start was the most difficult when moving to the full sized sketch. I tried several different things before realizing I should stick with my instincts in the thumbnail.
Here’s the progression in detail; thumbnail to hours of research and prep sketching to learn forms, how the creature/plant occupies space and has volume, to full size sketch. Panel clear coat prep, then transfer of original sketch via tracing paper that’s flipped back around, so both sides are used. First layer grey scale, allow to dry. Second layer greyscale, allow to dry. Finally, color glazing that happens in layers as well. VIOLA! 😀
This experience has truly enriched my scope and I’m excited to work this way in the future. I think I was being a bit stubborn or blocked resisting it before! I should have the series finished by the end of May, and then I’m moving on to my next group show for 2020 – The Art of Peace, a figurative show at The Doughtery Art Center in Austin opening in Dec. (P.S. Sorry about my awful photography! Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions!)