Monday, November 3, 2014

Art Studio Visit in Atlanta

While in Atlanta I visited the TULA art complex on Bennett Street with my friend Ken. The building has been occupied by artists for decades. I found some surprises to share. Immediately on entering the building the paintings of Alexi Torres were on display. His pictures intrigued me.  The door had a "open" sign so we stepped in and were glad we did. Alexi was at work on a very large canvas but stopped to greet us and make us feel welcome. The combination of the scale, his subjects and a unique painted weaving technique created compelling paintings.

I enjoy seeing artists' studios since they offer a unique view of the workplace where the pieces are made. The tools, furniture and stacked paintings tell so much more that the art gallery or museum does not.
Ken and I had just left the High Museum after viewing Cezanne, Van Gogh,Toulouse-Lautrec and many more artists from a private collection of European and Impressionist paintings. In fact, I had so much opportunity to practice my "esthetic judgement" and satisfy my visual appetite that I thought I was quite worn down. But as I entered Alexi Torres's studio I became re-energized and again aware of why I enjoyed the art experience so much.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Panoramic Photos

Since 2005 I have had these panoramic photo prints rolled up but never mounted.  While touring Utah and the southwest I made various attempts at wide angle photos using a digital SLR camera. I digitally stitching them together using a function in Photoshop. The best ones were printed at a service in Georgia nine years ago. These are 12 in. high and 48 in. wide or more. I wanted to finally display them properly.

I was referred to Tom Brock to mount them for me. He runs Imagine Fine Art Printing in St. Augustine.

The paper on those old prints had deteriorated so Tom offered to make new prints using his modern Epson giclee printer. With additional editing by both of us the quality of the images improved enormously! There was so much more to see which was lost in the older photos. The mounting was flawless. He offered a black sintra PVC board as the substrate with just a small border to protect the print edges. I did not want glass so he suggested a hanging technique called a French cleat. I was familiar with this when hanging cabinets. It was an ideal way to display these very wide pictures securely, flat and with a shallow space away from the wall.

I enjoyed working on this project with Tom. He is meticulous and demonstrates a mastery of his printing technique. We both had strong memories of these places like Lake Powell and Canyonlands and we shared stories of our times there. He's an excellent resource for photographers and artists in the north Florida area.
Tom Brock in his St. Augustine print shop

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Nothing Very Much To See

I have come close to the finish of this painting on canvas and perhaps this is the completed version.
Nothing Very Much To See
acrylic on canvas
45 in. x 52 in.

It has gone through so many stages beginning in 1984. In the last month I've renewed my interest and included some recent ideas and energy. The visual layering is still an important aspect. In this particular painting the earlier spiral design was very dominant. It took special attention to cover yet also retain this spiral or at least some aspects of it. It retains a reference to some artistic themes I was focused on decades ago.

A couple of phrases are included at the bottom. I had some fun with the letters, their meanings and visual movement. Its the movement of the eye across the picture which fascinates me. I am feeding the vision while provoking the mind to consider some implications of an overused expression.

This is currently still on unstretched canvas. I may keep it this way. Its feeling as an object is akin to a rug, tapestry or banner. It makes it a bit different to display, having no structure to hold it up. I will let it be for a while to wait and see. Absolutely!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Winterhawk Studio

Here is the look in my studio yesterday. I needed to pull out a large canvas from the back of the stacks so I spread them out in the available space and on the floor.
There is a span here of paintings from the 1980's to last month. My cell phone was set on panorama mode and stitched these individual stills into a wide view automatically in the camera phone.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Methylcellulose has arrived!

My online order for methylcellulose showed up in my mailbox today. Its my 1st order from Modernist Pantry. It came in a distinctive metal foil packet with 50 grams of powder. You mix it with water into a gel and use it as a glue.

The package photo is printed on metal foil and reflects light as you move it around. Colors from the room and window appear in the illustration of a cook. The package is also remarkable by the attempt to make the product and service personal. It came with a cute photo of a child, Chloe, and a note from the family who sent it and their phone number. The invoice describes it as low viscosity and is tagged with a note "packed by Mike".
My research led me to this as a reversible paper paste for mounting drawings and prints. It's sold as a cooking ingredient now but was used in wall paper paste years ago. Now its hard to find retail. A doctor friend told me it is also a weight loss ingredient.
Wall paper is adhered with vinyl and acrylic based pastes these days. Since they polymerize as they dry they are not reversible but must be dissolved with a solvent. You may already know how hard it is to remove wallpaper.
I've used this paste years ago to mount paintings on paper to plywood. That was not wise and now I need to separate the art from the wood. Chemicals in the luan plywood panel is leaching into the paper, staining it. Those pictures are valuable to me, about 30 years old and worth the effort. I'll share that project in the future.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Michelangelo's David

Here in St. Augustine, Florida there are many tourist attractions. Living here for six years I have come to take some of them for granted and ignore others. Taking advantage of the slow tourist season in September I visited Ripley's Believe It or Not. I will pass on the contents inside the attraction and focus on what really surprised me. Just before walking away I noticed something behind some tall hedges right out front. Hidden around a corner I found the sculpture "David" originally by Michelangelo. Actually this is an exact facsimile of the same size and from the same Italian marble quarry.

At the base I found it is titled "Magnificence in Marble: the Sollazzini and Sons' David". It's 17 feet high! Apparently it was made in 1963 for the New York World's Fair and purchased by Ripley in 2007. What an impressive object to have here in St. Augustine! I probably saw it at the World's Fair when I was a kid. I was curious about the way it is screened from the street. I assume that is to hide the nudity and genitals from those that might take offense.

The anatomical feature that struck me was the right hand, so enormously out of scale with the figure. Standing before the figure you actually look up above your head at the hand of David holding the stone. All these issues are very old and have been analyzed for centuries.

I saw the original in Florence in 1976 and recall that experience clearly. I probably saw this one in NY and can't recall. But I am pleased to have found it here and can now add it to my list of things to show visiting friends. I can't yet get over the fact that no one ever mentioned it to me before.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Plasma is stretched after 30 years

I have nearly completed the relining and stretching of my painting, Plasma. This is the first look at how it appears, properly mounted after it was begun 30 years ago.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stretching And Relining a Canvas

Since the painting, Plasma, was done on an unstretched cotton canvas I needed a method to display the entire piece without hiding the edges.
A stretched canvas usually has its edges wrapped around the wood stretcher bar and tacked in place. This should be done with a fresh canvas before the painting. That wouldn't work for me in this case. The technique used to restore old paintings by remounting them is called relining. The original canvas is removed from its stretcher frame and glued to a new backing, usually linen. I've seen this demonstrated at the restoration workshop of the Germanisches National Museum in Nurnberg, Germany when I was an art student volunteer. Its done on a vacuum table with archival, reversible glue. Museum quality restoration must use materials which can be removed without damaging the art should newer techniques become available to future restorers. These photos illustrate how I pasted strips of linen to the edges of my canvas from the back using rabbit skin glue.
This adds several inches of fabric with which to pull the painting using stretcher plyers around the edges of the stretcher. It is then stapled starting from the center of each side incrementally working towards the corners.
I did quite a bit of research and sought advice to choose the best method and to find a source for quality stretchers and braces. I haven't purchased stretcher bars in a long time. I have been using pre-stretched gallery wrapped canvas. I found that wood of the right type and dimensions are rare and expensive. Decades ago in Georgia I cut my own stretchers from local poplar and basswood . The miter joint used in this craft is unique and complex. It must be expandable after assembly to account for changing humidity and its effect on the canvas tension. I never found the correct name for the joint on any woodworking site, nor any instructions on making your own. I would just copy a commercially made example from an art supplier and scale it up to my materials. The closest name for this joint I found was a mortise and tenon miter. But that omits the subtle detail added to make it expandable using a small wooden wedge called a key. You may find this in photos of painters studios that include paintings turned to the wall exposing the back.
Making my own stretchers using this joint wasn't feasible for me since the 72 in. length of each of the four sides was beyond my machinery. So I finally chose a 72 in. stretcher kit from Utrecht Art Supplies
The package came damaged in shipping but their customer service was excellent. They sent a second package immediately and provided return shipping labels.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Reworking a Spiral

I chose another painting from the 1980's to revise, continuing the process after a long pause. This time it was quite a strong image. Over time an original image can be perceived differently. Difficult to describe, I became dissatisfied with it. There was no reason to accept it just because I once considered it finished. Not anymore!

I've got new colors and used another approach to mixing and overpainting. That previous painting, "It Is What It Is", was satisfying, especially in how the lettering gave me a new element to play with in the color field. The shapes could appear in layers moving forward and back as the eye roamed the picture. I could cover up a form yet it has a strength of its own resisting my masking. The new layer may be transparent enough to reveal what once was.

This time I am working from top to bottom.  I don't know why. I usually don't. Its interesting to alter my habitual approach. There is still more to do here. I need a way to push back on the past image and morph to something fresh.

Friday, August 29, 2014

It Is What It Is

This painting began its life long ago at my Neely Farm Studio in Norcross, Georgia around 1984. Its been rolled up, never stretched or mounted, moved about and stored for decades.  I only worked on it for a short time, waving my airbrush around freely with only two or three colors.

Well, I picked up where I left off. This time I thought to add text. I've been wanting to try this for a while. And what words and letters would I include? 
There are some things Americans say that annoy me. I won't explain it. See for  yourself.

48" x 54"
acrylic on canvas

Detail 16" x 20"

The same detail as above
How it looked in 1984

This is a Winterhawk Studio view in progress as I photograph the canvas tacked to the wall.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Looking At Plasma

After months of pause-and-go work on this painting I am coming near the end. I've had plenty of time to think up a title. It marks an end and beginning of seeing, my "post-cataract" period.

There has been an engaging kind of conflict finding forms that had an association to a real object and could be labeled. Should I continue to morph them and see what else they could become? Should I paint them more like what my mind labels them as? Should I paint them away as too obvious?

What I would like most is to design an original form and paint it in such a way that it is perceived as interesting, subtle and as complex as reality yet clearly artificial, but not stylized.

"Plasma" 2014
72 in. x 72 in.
acrylic on canvas

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Progress In January

This painting has been testing my new vision.  My artificial body parts (lenses) installed in December to remedy my cataracts have created visual anomalies. My depth and peripheral vision are altered. I am also adjusting to new prescription glasses. I took this project on as a fair challenge to see what seeing would be like from now on.

The six foot square dimensions were another challenge. Unless you work large sometimes you never experience the need to move around the piece. Consider the corners, the edges. What side is up? I feel I must maintain interest all over the picture. It looks chaotic now but there is a balance and I want to maintain it.

There certainly is a lot to find in this one. Things keep appearing. Should I keep this head, this fish, these bones? Should I paint them away or cultivate the thing? Consider that the original design was entirely free form and spontaneous. What will this turn into?