Talking about artwork is a skill and often I think about what I am trying to convey in the paintings or what I would say about them. Thinking about the surface of my paintings, for over 20 years I have started each piece with “pattern skins.” The tissue paper used to make clothes. My first experience with them was at Junior Achievement at the age of 12 when Mrs. Bigda taught a group of us how to make and sew clothes. I’m obsessed with the lines, the color, the frailty, and the varied surface it creates on my paintings. Because it creates a surface so random and varied in the texture, I feel each piece is unique no matter the subject matter. Could each piece convey a personality for the human qualities that the word “skin” would evoke? Often times I think of the surface and the wrinkles they create as age, the passing of time and the subject matter as a moment in time, trying to capture and hold it.
Going out on a limb
In high school I was a doodler. A doodler of trees, covering every notebook and book cover. I would draw a large trunk and large number of branches. I certainly didn’t think much about it.
For me, high school was a time of anxiety, with the usual stress of fitting in, tests, boredom, boys, and waiting for life to happen. I feel like this might align with my current fixation on painting trees. To look at this painting compositionally, it may not seem like I was “going out on a limb,” with a big branch, some leaves, a mountain range in the distance, but maybe this is just another response to my current anxiety. I read somewhere that themes of nature can create calm in a stressful environment. If this is the case, maybe a big branch feels like a bit of support.
For quite a while I have been working on line drawings and silhouettes of dried weeds, hoping to one day incorporate them successfully into a painting. I have made a number of attempts at weaving these elements into a composition. For some paintings I think it worked pretty well and some not so much. To make the combination successful, the drawing and painting need to also flow with the lines, color and busy surface of the patterned paper. In this piece, the branch is meant to be representational and strong, while the weeds and leaves are intentionally transparent and wispy. It’s a big contrast to have a large, opaque branch at the top with thin and see-through areas at the bottom. By including more elements to the picture plane, it creates more opportunity, as well as more potential for disaster. My version of “going out on a limb.”
In the end, I think this painting represents a reasonably successful amalgamation of the pieces coming together, painting, line drawings, and patterned paper.
Could the limb be interpreted as a looming threat or is it sheltering what’s below? If my history is an indication, it is an exercise in calming anxiety.
More detail and some fixes are needed with this piece but sharing some photos and thoughts on the work.
Recently I have been intrigued and inspired by the spiked and broken trees around the area where I live or “thorny” as one friend pointed out. There are certainly plenty of dead trees to choose from especially since the drought this summer.
I wonder about the relation between the thorny trees and painting during COVID. And the blue that falls down the trunk. I think it adds to the mood of the work. It was intentional to use complementary colors, blues with orange, some purple and my fav, yellow ochre.
As always (for the last twenty years or so) I started the piece with the patterns, using more pattern lines in the left for smaller branches and it contrasts nice against the open spaces at the top and bottom. It reminds me of broken glass or a quilt. Is it comfortable or uncomfortable?