Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Looking back, looking forward.

 Good Morning everyone,

This is not brand new work, but this is the first time I've written about it at length. I hope you will enjoy this work and the story behind it.

 This flurry of work was the result of a life altering event. In January, 2015, I suffered a severe asthma attack. It lasted weeks and left me weak and yet it prompted me to do something with the faulty printmaking prints that of course I could never seem to through away. Printmaking has its surprises, some lead to delightful discoveries or variations on a technique. When an edition is complete, and all the prints are signed and numbered, there are many prints left behind, that for some reason or other, did not make it to the scrutiny that the edition required; trial and errors, color proofs, pressure adjustments, the variations in papers, printing a block in the wrong direction -- the challenges are countless. Also, because of environmental and economic concerns, I felt that throwing away already, beautifully colored pieces of paper was such a waste. My father, who grew up during the American depression, saw value in unsuspected items. This, I observed with interest.


 It was such interesting work, sometimes I would play with the idea of the 'horizon line', compositions, working with the imagery that mirrored or blended, or enhanced the 'scene'. The variety of material was wondrous. It was cathartic to cut away the faulty bits, and create new imagery, vital, fresh, and fascinating to see the surprising ways the works came together. I would make three or four at a time, sometimes the pieces would float around from piece to piece, settling into a fine place all its own. Color themes, seasonal earthiness, the state of trees, mark matching, negative spaces were also utilized to make borders, archways, or surround and enhance a unique feature.

Urbanization has been quite the pressure cooker in our area. Clusters of mushrooming houses pop up in what was a filbert orchard, a raspberry field, a tree farm. Acknowledging the thoughtlessness is a very tender subject for an earth advocate. I am not against progress, but there is just too much dam paving! Houses without tree space, unthinkable! Though they may not show well in the photos, I took a few pages from a 1930's (fairly damaged) dictionary which had towns and their population, painted them with an iridescent pearl paint, and added these for an illumination, and interest.


You might notice that there are also watercolor pieces as well, and some hand made papers too.
There is such potential and beauty in the landscape. Why subdue it, why not enhance and celebrate?


I am so very grateful I had an opportunity to make these -- there are many more. I will post them in another time. These horizontally formatted works are all 15"x 22", on a 250gm cotton paper.

Thank you

Monday, October 30, 2017

In September I thought it would be good to take on a painting challenge, which entailed painting everyday for the duration of that month.  The challenge was from Strada Easel #stradaeaselchallenge, with the possibility to win one of their lightweight plein air easels. I was not that interested in the prize, but life has a way of putting things in your path when you would like to be painting. I felt that an official commitment would be beneficial, to strengthen my motives of setting aside time to paint.

That was the initial motive, never mind that I did not consider how much paint this would use, but this worked out to reveal other useful information. Some things I did consider, the number of paintings (there will be 30), what format would be most efficient and economical (I would not be able to purchase 30 canvases), what size of canvas/paper would be not too small or too much to complete in a day (there was an option to work on a single piece over the time period and post progressive photos each day), but I thought I would learn more by the frequent prompts of daily painting. Since I was using acrylics, I chose a heavy cotton printmaking paper, and tore five sheets (22" x 30") into six even pieces about 10" x 11" each. Usually, when considering the composition of a painting/drawing, I tend to rely on the golden mean proportion or divide the working surface in thirds, but these were nearly square, another thing out of the ordinary. I was so proud of preparing the first six pieces with a gritty gesso (as if I needed more unusual componants), in an effort to try a textural approach -- (actually the paper is very smooth, and canvas has a medium texture to hold the paint). They turned out to be too greedy for paint, and I did not have time to prepare the other 24 papers.

The weather remained very dry, for western Oregon. The forest fires were keenly felt, even in our area, which is a good sixty miles away from the Columbia Gorge fire -- but the wind kept the fires and the smoke drifting across the Willamette Valley, and the pinkish skies are evident in the paintings. The excessive heat was creating other problems with the paint, drying way too fast.

After the first week or so, I found myself managing my time better, making room for those creative moments, making the rest of the day follow the art routine, rather than the daily requirements taking precident. Still, many household projects were put off, and the garden was still demanding a great deal of attention. There were times when I just did not think I could do this, especially with so many other demands on my time. I carried on, enjoyed gaining better communication from hand to eye. Values in nature, subtle color shifts, how to compose in a square, and all those no-name-colors, all became more easily spotted, decided upon, directed into a complete form. The painting became easier, less hesitant, less left-brain-trying-to-get-attention, more efficiency, more care, easier color mixing, and so many other valuable improvements. Practice was really appreciated! Still I think there is room for improvement, for pushing further, more abstraction and other explorations.

At the beginning of October, when the painting challenge was over, I had a craving for some more delicate watercolor and pencil drawings, garden journaling and the calming processes of printmaking.

Next time we'll return to the espalier booklet and its new cover form and cover paper. Thank you!

More photos of the paintings from the 30 days of painting are at ReneeUgrinArtworks@facebook.com