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Saltworkstudio Large Painting Class: 5 Clues, and Cool Painting Titles

Cythia Heimowitz' s hands on her painting

What’s a large painting for you? 12  by 12 inches?  6 feet by 6 feet?  A mural? Anything on canvas? 

 What’s a large series?  Two paintings? A hundred?
 
In Sunday’s Saltworkstudio Paint Large class, our goal was to clarify our intentions for a series and begin to paint on larger surfaces.   For the purposes making headway in a four-hour class, I suggest students bring half to full sheets of watercolor paper, or three identical canvases up to 30 inches on a side.
 
I won’t share the entire process of the class, but it did result in the stunning headway on painting series you can see in the slideshow below.  All paintings shown were done in class on Sunday, and they are very fine starts. Some students came in with well-developed ideas, and some came in “blank.”
 
 I had to figure out how to model and convey my own process when working on a large series of big surfaces.    We used some of the  ideas below as guidelines.
 
  1. A large painting is not a small painting “blown up.”  Start fresh.  “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more.”  You are in a new, large, foriegn country.  Explore it.
  2. Composition is critical.  Plan a minimal, flexible composition format or idea.  It could be “Golden Mean” or “Diagonal.”  OR it could be quirkier: “Large X-Ray Animal in the Middle”  or “Floaty Fractal Bubble with Connectors” or “One Line High Horizon.”  Vary each painting in  your series, but stay within one compositional “meme.”
  3. Texture your surface first, then put on large swathes of color or paint BEFORE “starting” the painting.  Keep it very loose at first.   You’re getting hold of your surface, getting acquainted with it…developing a relationship.  The start is like a first date.
  4. You need big ideas for large paintings.  Work in your notebook. Catch the ideas and desires that hang at the periphery of your conciousness. We’re like Adam naming the animals of our imagination into existence… and some of them are very odd creatures! Don’t be afraid of titling your paintings right at the start.  You can always change them later.
  5. Remember, it’s only paint and canvas.  Sure, you might fail.  So what?

Enjoy the slideshow!  The Mythic News and Studio News are after the slides. Students, please leave some comments about your process and your series concepts and names.  I’m amazed by your work.

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Mythic News:  You can get great abstract painting titles from myths and legends.  I just bought the beautiful, witty book  American Indian Myths and Legends, selected and edited by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz.  Here are some titles I’d love to use for abstract paintings: The Origin of Curing Ceremonies. The Well-Baked Man.  Blood Clot. Jicarilla Genesis. Emerging Into the Upper World.  Great Medicine Makes a Beautiful Country.  The Theft of Light.  A Trick of Moon.  And more.  At the end of his life, my father told me that my great-grandmother was Native American.  It was the skeleton in the closet and a family secret.   At last I had a context for my resonance with ancient art.  Is there a DNA for visual desire, the passions of the eyes?
 
Saltworkstudio News:  All my classes are full through March!  I’ll be posting the next Spontaneous Construction date and time in the new year.   
 

5 Tips for Painting with Collage

What’s collage painting, mixed media painting, or combined media painting? How does it differ from collage? 

How can you use collage elements in painting without being highjacked or overwhelmed by the collage image?

Here’s a simple rule of thumb: A collage painting is more paint than collage elements.  The paint is 60% or more of the painting.  The collaged parts merge and meld seamlessly into the whole. 

 How to do it? Here are 5 tips. All paintings shown here are acrylic paint on paper or canvas.  I affix collage pieces to the surface with glossy acrylic gel medium.

1. Use only your own images whenever possible, including photographs, text, and your own sketches and handwriting.  You can also use copyright-free black and white images.  Copy and recopy the same  images in larger and smaller sizes at a copy store or using a laser printer.  Black and white is easier to incorporate, and leaves the color elements to the painter and paints.  I prefer to avoid colored magazine images, as tempting as they are.  The more you play with a single image by altering size, color, dimension, the more freedom you will gain  in painting.  You’ll own the image, rather than the image “owning” you.

2. Choose a theme. I used non-copyrighted Dover deer. Avoid themes that are intensely personal, like pictures of your dog, your mom, or your child.  You need to have a bit of distance to use images effectively, or to rip one up.  Eventually you’ll develop image banks of differing themes that become your private visual language.  

3. Paint first.  Put color on the surface, or paint a very sketchy painting, then affix images, then paint some more.  Painting first, before applying images, establishes that it is more a painting than a collage.  For all of these I chose a crucifix composition and applied paint first.  Then I put down ripped black and white collage images.  A warm background is good, as it can glow up through layers of paint.

4.Be willing to sacrifice the image.  Let go of the image you love and let it disappear, if the painting demands it. Show only a part of it.  If you want to keep it perfect, do regular collage, not collage painting.  This is one of the hardest parts of using collage elements in paintings.

5. Cover your images with glossy gel medium or UVLS varnish as you apply them.  Then you can pile on coats of paint and still wipe back to find them.

Toss the collage boxes and go back to only a few images.  Use them  thoughtfully in series of paintings. And have fun! 

Please use the comment section for questions on the collages or techniques.  I’m happy to share what I know.  If you’re one of my student who gets the blog, please share something about your experience with collage painting.

Mythic news:   Deer are symbols of sacrifice and purity, often used in Christian iconography.  It was said that deer gathered at the foot of the cross where Jesus hung.  I used them here  in these three works floating up and down through a penetrable horizon of birth and death, ancestor souls.  Collage itself belongs to the realm of Kali: dismembering  of paper , appropriation of image, rebirth of pieces into a new whole.  The goddess of Necessity wields the scissors and snips the thread of life– or the image.

Hade’s Choir: Mixed Media Collage Paintings in B/W

Collage is a natural for Halloween, the dark hinge in the year that creaks as something opens the door.  The bits and pieces of  paper are ghosts or forlorn spirits, no longer “alive” in their original context.   You cut them, dismember them, rip them up, seek underworld messages from scraps of text, and bury theme in paint.  You can “skin” them as well. Then, like good little ghosts, they march out and live again, speaking in paper whispers.

 Yesterday,  in the class I teach at Sebastopol Center for the Arts,  I was trying to model how to develop a series theme.  I shared to the class that in my notebook I had written that I wanted to do a series that was like “Edgar Allen Poe on acid.”  I like to read horror stories and murder mysteries;  husband Scott actually prescribes them for me as an antidote if I get too bound up in art books or my secret indulgence bonbons, preachy self-help books, which I love but invariably depress me with how much help I still need to add to Self.  I had been hanging on to scratchy black and white compositional studies for years; liked ’em but didn’t know how to take them further.    The Choirboys had been altered into a very damaged acrylic skin. I tore them up into two pieces and mounted them on two paintings, paired with a quote from a cave painting book,  and  my landscape transformed itself into the River Styx.  Mixed media included Utrecht Pro Gesso as my white paint… love the opaque chalkiness… and Derwent Inktense pencils for the purple automatic writing marks.   Payne’s Grey makes a gorgeous blue/black.  If this little group comes to your door tonight, I wouldn’t open it.

Mythic News:  Avernus, a crater lake of Italy near Naples, is supposed to be the entry to the Greco-Roman underworld.  Our own Crater Lake in Oregon is creepy enough… dead, because not fed by springs.  Dead, because the volcano crater goes down, down to the center of the earth, or near enough.  Birds and fish often avoid these lakes as well.  I’ll see Avernus around Christmas on our Italian trip.

Saltworkstudio events:  We have our annual Open Studios this weekend, November 5 and 6, 2012, at the old naval airbase , 3840 Finley Ave, Santa Rosa.  I have a new series of B/W paintings and you can see the top of a WWII bunker from my studio window.   Drop by Saltworkstudio.  I will be doing demos and would love to visit with you.