repetition of form

In my visual journal journeys of late, I’ve been experimenting with repetition. As impromptu, crazy, unique or wild as I have enjoyed being, at times, there is something very comforting and even intriguing in repeating a form throughout a composition.

I wonder why we like repetition in art and design so much. Is it a reflection of the repetition in daily life that we find calming? Is it something about counting, or seeing the same things repeated over and over (like the lamp posts that repeat as you stroll along a city street) that somehow speak to our need for math, and order?

And when something changes in the order, we are surprised, and sometimes even laugh. Is that why we like the order… because it might change, and give us a little delight?

I can say that for today’s sketchbook entry, repeating the somewhat-rounded red squares took on a rhythm for me. As I practiced using my brush to create them, they became more regular and rote… even though they remained organic and all different. In the rhythm, I took a comfort. In the experimentation with color (and how bold or subdued I allowed the red squares to be) there was lots of delight.

Hopefully, in seeing, the viewer experiences something akin to what I did as I painted on the page.



visual journal work in progress

The latest is a progression of shapes and colors which impart the sense of summer turning into fall… and that wasn’t my goal. I started with repetitive shapes drawn in pencil, because of my latest fascination with repeating patterns and motifs. The idea in my head was very two-dimensional, and this has taken on a sense of depth. That’s okay, though. My journal often takes my head for a walk.

the new sharpie liquid pencil has arrived

I swear I read about the new liquid graphite before the new year (2011) turned, and excitedly thought that Sharpie had come through again. Well, not literally. Their relatively new Pen is remarkable in that it gives a great fine line, doesn’t break up, and also doesn’t bleed through thin Moleskine calendar or notebook pages. All of the above are a big plus in my (Moleskine) books.

Ever since I read about the new Sharpie Pencil, I’ve been looking for it. Just this past weekend, I was in an art store in Madison, Wis. with my daughter, and fruitlessly searched through the pens and pencils, and the special Sharpie display… nothing.

Imagine my surprise when I was in Walgreen’s… the upscale Walgreen’s on the west side of Waukesha, mind you. Not the downtown Walgreen’s where I usually shop. Magically… amazingly… THERE was the new pencil. Wrapped in plastic and cardboard so no artsy types like me could give it a test run (first warning sign??).

Well, I bought one. I’ve had it for a week, and must say that I like how it erases. Otherwise, I just can’t quite get to believing that it is some sort of liquid graphite going on the page.

It rolls on like a pen, complete with some bloops and blobs… much like the pens that I don’t buy because of the bloops and blobs. It looks kind of like graphite, or maybe more like a gray-colored pen.

I tried doing some drawing, and can’t hold the pen/cil at an angle to the page to make long hatch marks, the way I do with real pencils.

I’m afraid I’m going to have to report that the new Sharpie Pencil is a real loser. Love the pens, but the pencil is just not believable, is too blobby, and the best part is still that it erases.

at 53, artist learns the same old stuff again

Remember how jazzed up I was about going in a whole new wallpaper pattern direction on Monday? I got going on colorizing my wallpaper drawing and before you know it I got a case of “I can make a big statement about life and the world with this… on canvas!”

It’s that over-confident artist-blindness that happens to me sometimes. Not all the time, but significantly enough for me to know that I have to watch out for it. During artist-blindness, I completely disregarded years of painting work and associated learning what I’m all about as a result.  Bonus: all of the past work and learning shows itself in my work now. This includes all of the hair-pulling about letting go of control and letting things happen in the moment, or by accident. All that hair-pulling and accidental happening resulted in some good, fresh work that is very “me.” I am an immediate, in-the-now person who remembers the joy of watching a finger painting happen under my hands 50 years ago, and who continually strives to get that essence into my work today.

So why would I think that a new direction, which involves painting the same thing over and over the same way with very small brushes, would somehow be the latest grand statement that I could make as an artist?

I think the answer is that we all like to explore, and go out on tangents. That’s one of the reasons I keep a visual journal. Once in a while, the tangent doesn’t end on the journal page. It screams and stomps around until it can have its own canvas. The result? Well, in this case it was a small canvas with interwoven shapes that looked a little bit like rows of onions. Very flat onions, in grays, muted yellows, and greens.

It’s not that tangents are a bad thing. They’re especially good in a journal, where you can use them to inform your person-ness, or artist-ness. On some rare occasions, tangents help turn corners and start new things that are really great.

Today, my tangent got out of the sketch diary, and just now (about an hour ago) got painted over on the canvas. Maybe it was the two cups of French roast coffee I had Monday morning as I started working in my journal? Hmmm… I didn’t even finish colorizing the page before I leaped up with a painting in my head (first neglected warning sign… the preconceived painting). Here’s the journal page, in its current state. I’ll revisit it to let it be a symbol of the lesson learned, but probably not to paint in any more color areas.

a day of patterns

Saturday morning, my daughter and I were waiting for my parents to arrive at La Brioche, our favorite breakfast place in Madison. The delight to our taste buds is only one part of the equation of experience there. Tall, spacious ceilings, great heavy chairs, and intriguingly patterned wallpaper frame and populate the space, and the air is light and happy.

Hannah was intrigued by the wallpaper, and snapped a picture with her phone.

Mesmerizing. So mesmerizing that this morning, I opened the image and drew it in my visual journal with pencil. I’ve enhanced the contrast so you can see all the marks.

Next, I’m going to add color. Hannah tweaked the color with a phone app, so I won’t refer to it extensively, but I do like the contrasts.

As I drew, I thought about my fascination with patterns, and thought about using them more in my paintings. Maybe a patterned area can transition into something more abstract. Maybe I can create intricate patterns and just let them stand alone.

But first, to practice drawing/painting one. I enjoy the different edges and the many different shapes used to fill spaces. Even though the space is full of little, decorative shapes and lines, there are underlying symmetrical forms which lend a sense of organization and structure. What a wonderful tension and balance between the two.

More later.

collage for late summer

There’s nothing like collage for fueling the creative gas tank. Today I glued down magazine clippings first: images of interesting fabric, repetitive patterns, and areas of color). Then, pulling colors from the images for my palette, worked on the surface with pencil, crayon, and gouache. I wanted to make the edges between the rectangular pieces disappear, to bridge between the unrelated cut-outs and start giving the page a sense of interconnectedness. The one area that I didn’t touch (much) was the view of a forest just to the left of center. I’m happy with the result. There are areas and ideas here that I’d like to incorporate in a painting at some point. I often take colors, or certain shapes or linear ideas from my visual journal to canvas. However, I have to stay immediate— in the moment— while painting, or it can get dull very quickly.