The painting process

Preparations for painting are going well. This stage is rather tedious, but it’s a part of the creative process: the base leads to the finished product.

Here’s a panel with the mesh base applied. You’ll notice that there are what appear to be circles under the mess. A bit of serendipity there: as I unroll the mesh and cut it into strips on the board, the strands on the edges sometimes get separated from the inner part of the roll. Most of the time, I just cut these off and toss them, but for this piece, and one other that I’m doing, I’ve applied them to the base. In one of Octavio Paz’s poems, he refers to the circle as the perfect representation of the impulse of art, so I include a few in some of my pieces.

Mesh baseThe second image below shows the beginning of the application of the joint compound. The type I’ve started using starts out pink, as you can see, and turns white as it dries. I’ve found this very helpful. Some areas of some of my pieces have a thicker coat, so it’s good to know when those spots have dried completely before applying the gesso.

Beginning to coverThis next photo shows the mesh fully covered with compound. Now it’s just a matter of waiting for it to dry.

Fully coveredThis photo shows a panel to which I earlier applied compound. As I looked at the piece, I decided that it needed more texture, so I’ve added another layer, with some deep gouges. We’ll see how those look when they dry. I may need to adjust them some, which I do with sandpaper. This piece may need even more layers. I’ll know when it’s dry.

Extra layer of compound

Painting

I’ve been painting a lot over the last four weeks, getting ready for a show in August. Most people think that an artist picks up a brush, dips it into paint and a picture magically appears. Oh that it were so!

If you paint on canvas, that might come fairly close to the reality (though stretching, sizing, and priming might take a few days unless one buys canvas pre-mounted and primed; and of course, this says nothing about the thought process that goes into deciding what to paint, which sometimes takes years), but in my case the process is a bit more involved.

I paint on hardboard that I buy from Home Depot. Nothing fancy. It has a nice smooth surface and works well for my highly-textured images. When I get the 2′ x 4′ sheets home, I have to decide what size paintings I’m going to do. I usually cut the larger sheets into smaller sizes, glue blocks for hanging on the back, prime the pieces with latex, apply drywall mesh and joint compound to create texture, shape the compound, and when that is dry, apply a couple of coats of gesso. Then, I’m ready to paint.

I paint with acrylic using a brush and wet rags. While the first several steps take three or four days, I can usually complete a painting in about one to two hours, depending upon the size. I paint quickly, but a painting doesn’t happen quickly. As I said before, the thought process takes much longer. I am not a realist painter, by any stretch of the imagination. If you see something in my painting that you recognize, it is something that you have created in your mind, not something that I intended for you to see. My technique is very much “stream-of-consciousness,” perhaps even Surrealist, and the inspiration for a painting may come from a poem, piece of music, book I’ve been reading, a TV advertisement, a dream, something that someone says in passing…

Right now, I’m working from the inspiration of the poetry of Octavio Paz, the great Mexican poet, diplomat, teacher, Nobel Laureate. Seven years ago, I started a series based on the stanzas of the poem “Salamander.” So far, I’ve completed twelve of the twenty pieces and hope to finish the rest in the next couple of years. I’ve also done paintings based on about a dozen other poems by Paz.

One of these days, another inspiration will arise and I might be doing paintings based on “Gilligan’s Island” or “The Andy Griffith Show.” Now, that will truly be Surreal.

….

Here’s a look at the process I use and a few new paintings.

Panels with blocks applied

Panel with hanging blocks applied

Priming

Panel being primed. Yes, I use house paint.

 

 

Primed panelsA couple of panels primed.

MeshNext, I apply drywall mesh to provide a surface for the joint compound to grab on to.

Panel with compound shapedA panel with joint compound applied and shaped.

Panel ready for paintA panel that has been gessoed.

Tools of the tradeTools of my trade.

Yellow clawA finished piece. This one is called “Salamander 4 – Yellow claw”

Solar arrowAnother finished piece. “Salamander 15 – Solar Arrow”

Red word of beginning“Salamander 19 – Red word of beginning”

 

 

First light near Walnut Shade

Here’s the completed painting that I’m donating to Corks and Canvas.  It turned out to be quite different than I thought it would.

First light near Walnut Shade

This is what the canvas looked like after the first draft.

And here is draft #2.

Draft #1 looked like early Cezanne and #2 was an unconscious nod to Van Gogh.  The final piece just reflects my technique.

Work in progress #2, part 1

Well, I changed my mind and decided to donate a painting to Corks and Canvas rather than the organic sculpture; I explain why in a later post.  Here’s a a photo of about an hour’s work laying in some colors and getting a feel of what may emerge for a piece to be entitled First light near Walnut Shade, Kansas.  This is the first painting I’ve started in about four months, and it feel good to get back to it.

Nothing left

There is nothing left to write about

All the ideas have been used
All the scenes described
All the details told

Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Melville, Chekov
Hemingway, Roth, Updike
James B. Patterson
What’s left that they haven’t said
(to say nothing of Austin, Dickinson, Cather, Atwood, Kingsolver
who finished what the other started)

A writer — novelist, poet, historian, blogger — must have a theme
There are no new themes:

boy meets girl
boy falls in love with girl
girl’s family dislikes boy’s family
boy kills himself in despair
girl kills herself in despair over boy
boy’s father wins the Lottery and does a leveraged buy-out of girl’s family’s business

What more is there to say

Cave walls, stone tablets, papyrus
turtle shells, leather hides, paper
computer screens, skin
burned sticks, chisels, quill pens
pencils, mechanical pencils
fountain pens, ballpoint pens
roller balls
crayons
Etch-a-Sketch
typewriters, word processors
a finger on an iPad
hieroglyphics, cuneiform, pictographs
alphabets, graffiti
All the writing has been done everywhere
All the instruments have been employed
All the forms used

What is left to write about

Tomorrow

Miracle on 18th Art Show

Hello Art, a local arts organization, is hosting its first member’s show at the Kansas City Arts Incubator.  It’s being called a “creative shopping experience” because all the art in the show will be for sale at reasonable prices; most pieces will be priced under $100.  The show and shopping opportunity will be this Friday, December 3 from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Arts Incubator, 18th and Baltimore.  If you are looking for a unique gift for that special someone, come down to the show.  It’s also First Friday in the Crossroads, so there will be lots of activity, with galleries open late.

Here are a few of the pieces I will be showing Friday.

I shot this magnolia bud a couple of years ago in color, but the structure lends itself to a high resolution black and white treatment.

A daisy shot in very low light and rendered in black and white.

This railroad bridge near Liberty has interesting lines and provides a variety of textures.

A couple of years ago, Suzanne had a conference in Atlanta, and I took this shot inside the hotel we were staying in.  I liked the contrast of light and dark… and the cleaning cart in the hall.