Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stealing Like an Artist

Little Sister, 8x8, acrylic and colored pencil, gold leaf

I've actually been painting the past couple weeks, even though my upstairs studio is often sauna-like and stuffy.  With no attic overhead to insulate the room, and a tiny vent for the AC, temps sometimes climb into the mid 80s there, and I find myself dressing very minimally and drinking lots of ice water.  That, and I signed up for a painting studio session out of town in a pleasantly air conditioned room in a senior center.  Thinking back, it might have been more cost effective to just crank up the AC here at home, what with the fees for the sessions and the gasoline to get there, but if I had stayed home would have missed seeing other painters I know and like, and I may well have gotten sidetracked playing Bejeweled Blitz on the computer downstairs.  I'll post the two small oils I finished there later on.

Earlier in the month when we were playing tour guide for a visiting out-of-town niece, I bought a little art book at Arcadia Bookstore in Spring Green.  We stopped in to cool off and get some coffee, and I found Steal Like an Artist.

I sometimes think that reading about art is just a way of procrastinating and not getting going making art, but this slim volume appealed to me very much. He is simple, direct, decidedly un-fussy, and sometimes quite funny.  Like local artist Lynda Barry, he is an advocate of just getting going, and using your hands (As opposed to an electronic device).  His general idea is that of course artists are influenced by other artists, but that your job is to keep track of the people who are your models/influences, learn from them, then add something of yourself, combine ideas, transform them to make them your own.  Kleon has a blog I like too, and you might find it worthwhile to check it out.  I also am enjoying his suggested reading list, which is mercifully short.

Which brings me to my most recent painting, an 8x8 inch picture of my husband's youngest sister, adapted from a 1950s black and white snapshot.  I glued a piece of embossed wallpaper on a canvas board, gessoed over it, draw the girl and rabbits, then started painting.  It was a challenge, since the photo was small and indistinct, and the girl was surrounded by a wire mesh fence that obscured lots of detail.  So, I invented.  When I had the image pretty much done, I added gold leaf around the entire background, a step that terrified me at first, but which later pleased me.  I know there are other painters who use vintage photographs, and who use gold leaf, but I've never seen one who works as small as I typically do, or who primarily uses personal photos.  So, maybe I am stealing like an artist.  I hope so.

Stay cool, folks.


JoAnn said...

I think this is wonderful, just lovely. Will you frame it?


JoAnn said...

I would like to have a word with the people who design the "prove you're not a robot" question!