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Very Bad Bird! (But I Love You)

Copyright Suzanne Edminster

Oh, that Bad Bird. Have you had a naughty-boy dog? cat? boyfriend?  (I know you have.)  I painted this as an homage to that thing in us that seeks a little bit of darkness.  Even if they’re not good for us, we love them.

I started this painting by collaging a Matisse book that fell out of its binding to the 24″ x 24″ canvas.  I like painting on substrata that is almost fully obscured.  The Bird is the Raven King, a  black-feathered emperor of darkness, impossibly charismatic.  There’s a girl bird suggested in there.  You can see ravens underneath in the collage layer, but I meant this painting, with it’s little pink and green “curtains” on the side, to indicate a tragicomic scene in the drawing-room comedy of our love lives.

I gave him a crown, because he rules.

Who’s your Bad Bird?

News: a two-blog day! Woof!  Thanks to great friend, writer, cook and painter Sharyn Dimmick of the Kale Chronicles, who was kind enough to feature my Sonoma Pears Poached in White Wine, and a painting of a nocturnal pear.  Don’t miss her unique style: original art paired with each recipe.  She is that goddess, a woman who knows how to use her both her CSA veggie box and her paint box.

Cow Licks Up Universe

Here’s your myth for the day, dear readers.  Did you know that in Norse mythology Auoumbla, the primaevil cow, actually created mankind?  She licked away the icy salt blocks of the first creation, sculpting them with her warm tongue until first a man’s hair appeared, then a head and a whole man.  I love making cows with abstract shapes rolling around in them like their complex factory stomachs.  On my last visit to the Central Vally I photographed cows right outside our house, their shining, massive flanks moving like hot mountains.

In last Sunday’s studio class, we painted flourescent pink and cadmium orange underpaintings, then spattered them with Golden Acrylic liquids.  This is just pure play to loosen up.   I like hot, bright underpaintings because I sometimes think they make the painting breathe and heave a little, generating imaginative form.  Then you carve with opaque paints like the cow’s tongue on the ice and things pop out.  Primitive creation is fun, letting us regress to being mucky little kids with cosmic questions.

Wierd creation myths and wrong, kitchy color give a wild spin to the day.  Abstraction and mythology read the world through metaphor. Auoumbla says, take a lick at eternity.

October Underworlds

October is the month where the borders and boundaries between the worlds become a little thinner.  I love the lengthening days and cooler weather.  Growing up in the Central Valley, October provided the first respite from stifling heat. It’s been a long year… my father passed away in August .

 I painted these for my June show, wanting to evoke the flow between the thin crust of overworld and the bulk of the underworld, how we are a skin on a much larger being.  I started with spatters and the determination to use interference paints over large areas.  In the end, I kept them near the top horizon, where the “city” is.  I liked the look of my studies mounted at the top, but wanted these pieces to be all paint and no collage elements.

I’m reading Greek mythology now, realizing that there are many entrances to the world that is not our waking world:  a dark lake, a crack in the earth, a dream, or a painting.

Interference Paints and Alchemical Acrylics

In my last Saltworkstudio class we experimented with interference colors.  Painters are often suspicious of these paints, harboring a worried feeling that incorporating them is the equivalent of a child dumping a mound of red glitter on Mom’s homemade Christmas card, an instantaneous road to kitschy work.  They do have that same quality of toylike holographic change as you shift angles, like Jesus’ eyes opening and closing as you move the 3-D postcard: unnerving and  miraculous. Interference colors are the colors of outer space, in a sense anti-colors, because the show up only by floating on a dark background. Think nebulas, deep space, and the formless cloud Captain Kirk sees pulsing on the galactic horizon.

 On a white surface, they virtually disappear. Nancy Reyner does large-scale, moving abstracted landscapes with layers and layers of them.  If you can make a “value” painting, that is, a black-grey-white grisaille or painted cartoon that has large areas of darker background, you can use them for mystery and emphasis.  They have that phantom quality: like ghosts, they can barely be photographed.  Like ghosts, you have to see them to believe them.  I

Daniel Smith has always excelled with iridescent, interference, and their own Duochrome line.  I particularly loved the Interference Gold and Copper over black.  The colors are sophisticated neutrals with that alchemical edge.  Scratching into them to reveal the black underneath with heiroglyphic marks made me feel like I was creating texts and tablets from a lost continent.  For strange landscapes, I think Daniel Smith’s color Iridescent Topaz is amazing… a sort of tarnished gold over soft grass green.  And I love the Duochrome Electric Blue… a startling shade that can be used for sky or a bird’s wing or for the brush of thought through the space of a mind.Paint an anti-landscape or a stellar event or decorate your dark-surfaced mood. For more interference paintings, visit and see class and event photos.


Dover Image Joy

Call me a fool, but I love Dover images, even if I don’t use them often.  A baboon, a lizard, and choirboys lead the way, while a mammoth skull bellows.  I rushed into the studio, took down a large painting start (orange with flourescent paint) and made a quick assemblage of things to inspire.  Dover images have a rich, black and white web of texture.  I like to enlarge them at Kinko’s on regular copy paper, then rip them freely.  In pieces, you can’t tell what the original image was, but I always think that somehow, the network of lines “remembers.” Paste them down right on the canvas, or, if you’re patient, use an image transfer technique.

Dover Images are a metaphor machine.  Just place any two side by side and see what they tell you.  The choirboys with the mammoth skull?  Well, in the old days we worshipped the animal world, especially those that could kill you.   The skull and the lizard?  We’re immediately in the desert the desert, or the underworld. And, by the way, they’re not copyrighted… they have officially entered the realm of the archetype, the eternal.  Forge your bonds with the archetypes.   Invite a Dover book to dinner.