New drawings

A few months ago, I wrote about how relationships between shapes, their forms fitting together, colors echoing back, and lines weaving through the composition were interesting to me when I originally sketched from my experience on the rocky Scottish beaches. Not only were the rocks beautiful in coloring, but I was also drawn to the old structures built with the stones. They had to be found and fit together by weight and shape. Even the rocks on the ground would naturally settle together with weight and time.

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(“Together” 22″ x 30″ oil pastels and charcoal on oil paper)

When friends or family members spend a lot of time together, they seem to settle in to one another comfortably. They just fit. The proximity can make conflicts all the more uncomfortable, but also more easily resolved. Those adjustments and weathering make you even closer over time.

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(“Assemble” 22″ x 30″ oil pastels and charcoal on oil paper)

Differences always arise when a group of people get together. This drawing reminds me of those big discussions around simple decisions, like trying to agree on a restaurant for 20 people. Debate, standing around, no one committing.

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(“Settle” 22″ x 30″  oil pastels and charcoal on oil paper)

It is wonderful to stay in the same relationship over time, such as a family unit or marriage, because you grow together into almost another organism. You learn about each other, and start to fit together like an old stone wall. Good relationships take time, and trial and error, but the result is ease and comfort.

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(“Exchange” 22″ x 30″ oil pastels and charcoal on canvas)

Words between companions can be fiery and passionate. Words can sail out like arrows, for the good of the relationship or to its detriment.

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Ultimately, this work is about relationships. Each drawing explores this idea a little differently, but they all point to humans relating to other humans. It’s been many years since I made the original sketches from the landscapes in my small sketchbook, but I’m so happy to be working on these now. The timing is right for me to work into these drawings again.

Thanks for reading,

Kathryn

 

Art tourist

I live in a rural area of my rural state, and have done so for most of my life. I do not get to see much in the way of world-famous Art on a regular basis. Then, as a young graduate student, I got to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, for two years! It was wonderful because I would frequently stop in the National Gallery (which was free and on my way to the art college). I got to know that collection very well. I can almost tour it in my memory. My last few days in Edinburgh before leaving it for good, besides giving many tearful goodbyes to my friends, was spent going through this and my other favorite museums. I had gotten used to having access to so much great art. Then I moved back to my rural section of this rural state. I’m not complaining; I love my home. Rural does not equal inferior or bad. It’s a beautiful place with generous people. But I miss big city art museums. I’m always pining for a trip to an art museum. It’s true! Pining. Gaping like a fish out of water. That’s a bit dramatic, I admit; but I truly miss fine art. 

Every couple of years I take a chance to go to a big city and see some great art. A few months ago, I decided I was overdue for some city time and went to Dallas/Ft Worth to visit a friend. She is also an art lover and member of the Kimbell Art Museum. We arrived for my visit to the museum, and I realized the special exhibit was a selection from the National Gallery in Edinburgh! It was like seeing old friends to see these paintings again. 

  

Seeing my favorite paintings with a favorite friend!



I couldn’t believe how fortunate to go to Texas and see my favorite paintings from the National Gallery of Scotland. The Raeburns, that amazing Rembrandt self portrait, that Sargent portrait of Lady Agnew- they were all there! Brilliant. (And did I mention it was on my birthday?)

The permanent collection at the Kimbell is a solid, well-chosen group of paintings. It is a small and purposeful collection. It has one painting from each of the best artists in the history of artists, and that one painting is always a fantastic choice. I snapped a few pictures of the paintings I spent a lot of time with. 

   
I loved the lines of this Caravaggio.

 
I could never get enough Velazquez.

   

This small Tiepolo is so rich.

  
Have always loved Munch for his flat, graphic paintings.  

Overall, I highly recommend the Kimbell! A real gem of an art museum, and only eight hours away! Next time you’re in the Dallas area, don’t pass this up. 

Together

  Relationships between shapes, how their forms fit together, colors echoing back, lines weaving through the composition – these ideas appealed to me when I originally sketched from my experience on these rocky Scottish beaches. Not only were the rocks gorgeous in coloring, but I was intrigued by the old structures built with these stones. They had to be found and fit together by weight and shape. Even the rocks on the ground would naturally settle together with weight and time. 

   
   
 
Here is the beginning of my new series based on my sketchbook. I am interested in the fitting together, the relationships, small shapes making up larger structures. There will be more thoughts on that to come as I make more of this series. It may not be obvious (or maybe so), but I am getting great joy from making this work. It’s the feeling of doing what you’re supposed to be doing. I can’t wait to start the next one. 

 

“Together” Oil pastels and charcoal on oil paper, 22″ x 30″

Here is a painter I have been looking at for many years (but especially now) who also paints relationships between objects. I adore Morandi’s work and encourage you to have a look.  I’m sure you will enjoy it just as much as I do. 

(The following images are Morandi’s work.)   
 

  

Thanks for reading,

Kathryn

The ten year painting

As I was looking for the next thing to do, I found an old oil painting I had started on a wood backing when I was 20 years old. It had a composition starting that I’m sure I thought was finished. Thanks for the head start, 20! Ten years later, I can see it was immature and needed more. Ten years ago, the painting was too open-ended. I needed more life experience first.

When I was younger, I loved for life to be open-ended. I didn’t have any set plans of where I wanted to live and was up for moving around a lot. Being in transit meant I was headed somewhere new and could avoid the mundane, boring, and domestic. Life needed to be exciting! Then I had my first child, and I don’t go anywhere much. This was a difficult adjustment for me to make. I’m grounded for a little while, staying at home most days with two small children, and life is in danger of being mundane.

“This is the story of my life, that while I lived it weighed upon me and pressed against me and filled all my senses to overflowing and now is like a dream dreamed.” (Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry).

What I’m realizing is that even though I’m at home changing diapers and honing some serious domestic skills that only three other people even notice right now, life is still filling my senses. Every adventure has its darks and lights, or it wouldn’t be an adventure. It is tough to do this work of being a mother and wife and artist. It is turbulent in an inward way, like trying to balance a serving tray in one hand with it all sloshing around. This is this painting. It is being parents of young children and having your senses saturated (much like traveling), being bone tired, but full to the top with love. Little hands reaching for me, needs, requirements, snuggles. It is saturating, but positive.

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(“The Family” oil and oil pastels on wood, 30″ x 40″)

What will I think in another ten years? I will probably see how pulled apart I was back then, wanting to be a good mother but also a good artist (is that possible?). I might see the contrasts as something of a life portrait, an image that sums up the anguish of trying to keep it all in balance but having it slosh around and nearly fall off the serving tray. Or I might see a shifting landscape that is turbulent but leading somewhere triumphant. I hope I look at that orange circle in the middle, balancing on the moving peaks, and remember the love we had in our little family. I’m sure it will be like a dream to remember it all as it is now, when I’m 40.

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Thanks for reading,
Kathryn

The untitled stick painting

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I am still searching and painting, letting my eyes show me my interests when my brain is not sure. These sticks kept catching my eyes, so I painted them; simple as that. I have no title for this piece yet. It is watercolor, gauche, and charcoal, 10″x18″.

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I have a new painting in progress, which I expect will inform my ideas about this one.

Thanks for stopping by,

Kathryn

Following my eyes

My work is going to take a detour through some unknown territory. As I mentioned in my last post, I had taken over half a year off to have a baby. Now I am starting from scratch. What was important before? I can’t seem to remember. What do I want to say? I’m looking for it.

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(“Looking at a fig tree” 8×10 watercolor)

I am painting those things around me that persuade my eyes to stop and look, and look again.

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This includes playing with mediums. I sometimes enjoy what watercolor can do (the way colors run together, the visual textures that appear). The background on this painting is not my best work (sort of blotchy).

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(“Painting of a painted plate” 8×10 watercolor)

I have recently moved to a more rural location. My eyes have been taking in the vegetation around me. I enjoy seeing the contrasts in the way nature actually is and how it is portrayed for decorative purposes.

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Outside, nature is tangled, barbed, thick, wild. Inside, it is prim, pretty, orderly, decorative.

I have enjoyed looking at Elizabeth Blackadder’s work as I sort through my own ideas. She is a Scottish painter (a fellow Edinburgh College of Art graduate), working in watercolors and oils, painting normal life things. I appreciate that she doesn’t agonize over what to paint and simply paints the objects around her.

(The following images are Blackadder’s work)

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I think it’s important for me to trust my eyes. They seem to know my interests before my brain does.

Thanks for reading,

Kathryn

Labor Dream

Six months ago, I gave birth to my second son. He was a healthy nine pound and one ounce baby (not breech!), about two weeks early. Big brother adores him, we all dote on him. He’s smiley, chubby, has one dimple and two teeth.

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“Labor Dream” 8×10 watercolor

My labor took a while to get going, and I became obsessed with timing contractions and finding ways to guess my dilation (this does not help anything). I just wanted to get to 10 centimeters dilation so that it would be over and I would be holding my baby. At some point I dozed off and had a dream where I saw a giraffe and the number 10. That giraffe- I recognized her. My family and I had a humorous encounter with a giraffe family at the zoo when my first son was very young. The giraffe pen contained a family of them with a mother, father, and baby. Mama giraffe was just trying to eat, and her kid giraffe was running circles around her, begging for her attention. The daddy giraffe was standing right exactly beside her, waiting (patiently) for some attention too. It seems that motherhood is exhausting for all species. We laughed at the situation and the poor mama. And in my dream, it was like she returned to remind me that it will be crazy, exhausting, irritating, happy and full, this mothering business; and I would not be lonely or alone very often.

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I did eventually get to 10 centimeters and now my arms are very full. It is true that I don’t get many moments to myself, which can be problematic for an artist. But I am getting over it. Good thing I know from experience that this doesn’t last forever. I hope to make one small painting a week. It is more about the practice than the content right now. That will come with practice.

Until next week,

Kathryn

Contrasts

As I work to build up my professional grade supply of oil pastels, I can only think of my art in the past or in the potential. There is no work in progress right now. I think a lot about the work I’d like to be making while looking at my completed art. Even the endeavor of sitting down to write is filling a creative void as I wait.

This has been a year of positive and negative, black and white, contrasts walking together arm in arm. With every high there has been an accompanying low. I can only ride them, like childbirth contractions, knowing that at the end I get a baby. The joy of another pregnancy, followed by a search for pregnancy-safe art materials that is still ongoing; juggling pregnancy, motherhood, marriage, art, jobs. If I were an unconnected individual, I suppose I would have much more work to show for myself. But I wouldn’t trade this life for that one. This life has contrasts that will make my art relatable to the viewer, who is also riding the highs and lows of life. Poet Stephen Dunn once said, “It would be a lie to say I must choose between happiness and art. I can live with many things. Just to admit that I’ve been married for 35 years means that I’ve experienced joy and diminution and quiet evenings and tumultuous evenings and betrayal and dishonesty and tenderness and withholdings and forgiveness and cowardice and boredom and friendship.” Such is the life of the person who lives in community with others, all the shadings and tension and release and resolution of the daily events of living.

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Edvard Munch’s “Toward the Forest II” shows the black and white embracing, walking toward a daunting forest together. I enjoy Munch’s prints because there is so much meaning in flat graphic images, something that I attempt in my own art. I like it when much can be said with only a few layers.

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This is a photograph I took in Scotland, which may or may not ever make it into my art work. This image is not so ominous in tone as the Munch print, but I also enjoy the flat layers and the contrasts of the black and white, the living and the ancient, and the agrarian and the spiritual.

Contrast is what makes life exciting, and it is what makes graphic images speak. Up, down, in, out, black, white. Even now at 34 weeks pregnant, my baby is head up. Will he flip? I hope so. If he does, it will be a fitting end to nine months of constant reorientation.

Kathryn

Moving on

I should have seen this coming. Maybe I ignored it because I didn’t want to see it. Turns out that the oil pastels I have been using are student-grade and not light-fast nor archival. I read they were great to start on but didn’t look into it any more than that. Oil pastels are so foreign to me. That means any work I have done with them won’t last for very long. It means that if I were to frame a drawing and have it in a sunlit room, it would fade. It means that the drawing could get cloudy over time. In a way I am glad to have gotten beginner pastels because I was a beginner with that medium. Sinking a lot of money into an unknown medium could have been a mistake. A positive side is that oil pastels have much more potential than what I have known so far. I consider what I have done as practice.

My plan is to sell off these practice drawings for whatever I can get and use that to start my professional grade supply. They are both 22×30 inches, which is a standard size if you are looking for framing that isn’t custom (it saves a lot).

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I know, I know, that top one has a lot of time put into it. But I’ll just say that’s how long it took me to learn to use oil pastels. The bottom one was only just started when I began questioning the quality of pastels I was using. I kind of like it. It gives me hope for using nice pastels.

I know I am quite the salesman with that first paragraph, but you never know who might like some very inexpensive and somewhat temporary art. If you are interested in buying these for next to nothing, please speak up!

Kathryn

(Not) finished

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Please excuse the grainy phone picture. I can’t bring myself to document it yet because I don’t believe it is truly finished. It is a bit of a letdown to have started working on a drawing in November, switched the medium in January, and then spent half of the next year struggling through this new medium only to find that it may not have worked the way I planned.

Ultimately the problem is that I had a difficult time letting this medium be itself. I wanted it to be like chalk pastels, but it can’t. Usually when I work, I do not disguise the medium. My oil paintings have thick strokes; watercolors, bleeding edges; ink drawings, scratches and blots. I don’t mean this in the “art mark” superficial kind of way; I only allow it when it is crucial to the structure of the piece. My best work reflects a complete comfort with the medium, a synthesis of concept and material where there is almost no distinction between the two. This is very different from works where the artist is just “playing” with the material with no end result in mind. It is also quite the opposite of having the medium only as the means to make the image.

This all reminds me of listening to string music. There was a brief time when I was young that I thought it was pretty cool to have string quartets play classic rock songs (like the Beatles or something). I quickly got tired of it, preferring music written specifically for strings (Bach, for example) because it was a much better use of the medium. The composer was truly intimate with the nature of the instruments and was able to produce high quality work. A pop song transposed for a string quartet sounded more like bending these beautiful instruments into tools of pop culture. Let the electric guitars and thumping drums and raspy voices rock out their hits, because it suits them best (the rock star is equally as knowledgable in his medium). The stringed instrument deserves its own score sung with its own voice.

I am going to start another drawing, and this time I am going to let the oil pastels sing in their own voice. When I finally learn to recognize it, I will come back to the transposed-pop-song drawing and relieve it of some of its constraints.

Kathryn