How to Use Gold Metal Leaf in Abstract Painting, Part 1

Abstract Paintings with Gold Metal Leaf – Suzanne Edminster

Gold leaf always seems so complicated.  It makes us think of old masterpieces and secret processes.  How can you use  gold metal leaf in intuitive,  contemporary abstract painting?

  1. Prep the canvas first.  I like to use gesso and modeling paste.  Build a few bumps and ridges into the canvas.  This will make the gold metal leaf have interesting texture when you apply it later. Then drip on a few interesting colors in light, abstract washes. You can use Golden liquid paints.  Remember that you are not planning too much.  In intuitive art, the painting will form itself from the media. You will get ideas as you go along. Let the  layers dry.  You can see an example with texture under the leaf here.

    Detail of Danae by Suzanne Edminster. Note the different kinds of texture under the gold areas.
  2. Let the gold metal leaf tear into large and small forms.  Don’t try to control the shapes: that’s part of the process! Then use regular waxed paper from a household roll to pick up the “broken” pieces.
  3. Apply the gold metal leaf first or in the under layers of the painting.   I use  a Minwax acrylic deck varnish from the hardware store.  I brush it on, let it dry a minute so that it is neither wet nor completely dry, then apply the gold leaf.  Let each random fall of the leaf lead you to decisions on where to place the next layer.  Press the waxed paper to make the leaf adhere.

Now you have the start of a very interesting abstract painting!

But how do you integrate the gold leaf and make it a finished painting?

I will write more on the process next month.  I don’t believe in “trade secrets” in painting anyway.  I will always reveal media and techniques– because your painting process and finished work won’t be like mine anyway!

I am hosting a class in my Santa Rosa, California studio this month.  You can find the listing for Abstracts with Gold Metal Leaf here on my website.  Please scroll down.   Gleam on!   Suzanne

The Cherubim Experiments and Winterblast

Cherubim 1, Suzanne Edminster

I’m doing experimental mark making and painting.  I start with automatic writing on each surface with drawing tools: conte, graphite, China marker, charcoal, oil pastel.  Then I white or obliterate areas of the writing or painting.  I follow ideas as they arise.  From automatic writing I get ideas and phrases.  An example: “History seeks to remember the mantra.”

I am fascinated with the process of making “sense” of random marks, images, words, and events.   The creativity lies not so much in the painting process as in the slow excavation of meaning out of fields of chance.

As I worked on this series of 3 20″ x 20″ paper pieces, the word “Cherubim” appeared to me.  Originally lions and bulls with wings, they “devolved” into Valentine Cherubs.  Cherubim guard the Tree of Life.   Cherubim guard The Big Chair, that is, God’s Throne:  Chair-u-bim. It seems that floating forms, surreal automatism, and a bit of religious icon are melding in this series.

Experiments are risky.  That’s why they call it “risk taking” and not “sure thing making.”  Below you can see one in progress.  I know they are done when a certain internal narrative about them crystallizes like rock candy in my mind. The point of “finishing” is in my psyche,  not in the painting itself.

Process painting in the Cherubinm series
Process painting in the Cherubim series

I think the real old-style Cherubim would be terrifying, more like wheels of UFO flame or hybrid winged lions, yet we know that sometimes monsters guard the gates we must enter as artists. I go forward with some trust in the process. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, friends.

Suzanne

If you’re in Northern California this Saturday, November 14, come to Winterblast, the best homemade holiday EVER.  I’ll be there with the studio doors open… if I’m not dancing in the street.

Winterblast 2015!
Winterblast 2015!

A Trace of Gold

 

A Trace of Gold series at La Crema Tasting Room
A Trace of Gold series at La Crema Tasting Room
Selfie with "Phaistos"
Selfie with “Phaistos”

It’s been a summer full of road trips, but my newest show, “A Trace of Gold” is staying put, on view at La Crema tasting room in Healdsburg through September 2015. It has been great to have such an elegant space to display them.  I’m told that tasting room patrons have a few glasses of the outstanding Pinot Noir , then take each other’s photos in front of them. Larger scale paintings– these are four foot by five– take you into totally new spaces.  You enter the particular alternate universe of that painting in a way different from other work.  The broken gold metal leaf catches the light, even in near-darkness.   I painted these to try to catch something both fragile and eternal, like our lives.

Over Underworld at La Crema
Over Underworld at La Crema
Suzanne Edminster, The Phaistos, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 48 x 60
Suzanne Edminster, The Phaistos, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas, 48 x 60

Right now I’m writing from Mendocino, artful and artsy, charming and  pretentious.  I’m staying for a night in a watertower art studio– more on that in my next post. This is my third road trip of the summer.  Not to stretch the metaphor too much, but larger work is really a bit like travel that takes you into odd worlds.  It’s the closest we have to time and space travel through wormholes.  The brush is your vehicle, jalopy or spaceship.   Now I really have stretched that metaphor to the breaking point.  Next post will be the real road trips.  Don’t disembark yet.

Screwtape for Artists, Letter 1


The Screwtape Letters, written by C.S. Lewis in 1942, is a series of wickedly funny and ominous letters from a higher demon, Screwtape, to a sub-demon, Wormword, who is in charge of corrupting a human soul or “patient.” Of late, it has been fashionable to read of “gremlins” who want to steal your creativity, block you, and so on. I’ve never been fond of the word gremlin. It’s actually a 20th century coinage used for mechanical problems on airplanes, and is “imaginary.” It trivializes and reduces temptation to a cute, manageable,  pet-like critter  and whitewashes the tempters’ fierce battle for your art.

Artists deal with the shadow; it comes with the territory. But I think we need to correctly name our underworld enemy, and honor it with a measure of gravitas. In this spirit I have hacked the cosmic mailbox to expose some new Screwtape letters for artists, written to a certain Wormseed, who has been assigned the soul of my art. Read the original: it’s a fresh as ever today. I write these to discover what I might have to say to myself about my life and art.

My dear Wormseed,

I see you have been making good progress with the Artist.  She’s slowly slipping into a low-key despair, which is always a highly desirable state.   Since the advent of the Internet, which I had a gargoyle eating manlarge role in creating, your job is so much easier!  In some senses, the progress from the medieval artisan to the 21st “artist” has been our major achievement in the Arts.  Ironic, isn’t it, that those stone masons, as hungry and poor as they were,  accurately carved our likenesses as gargoyles. Portraiture was not dead!  Despite oppression  and all the fabulous  corruption of that  Church,  they were often closer to escaping us than the sleekly fed, well-medicated artists of today. The Cathedral of Technology holds so many new opportunities for us!

But I digress. I see she’s starting a new project.  This is your chance to make more progress.  Please amplify the level of distraction in her life.  A turn to “reality”– money, job, status, looks, and so on– is one of the best methods we know, because it is so supported by the society at large.  Involve her in her own reality show drama, as opposed to her actual life. By all means, keep her from daily walks and home cooked meals, as these fortify her, stopping up those wonderful chinks and holes through which we enter.  And DO NOT LET HER OPEN JOURNALS OR SKETCHBOOKS.  As soon as she creates even one word or line, our power begins to ebb.

If you keep her in this state of stasis, you will soon see a satisfactory decay.  Best of luck to you.  Sorry about the turn to non-toxic materials in her studio.  You can’t win them all.

Your  Master,

Screwtape

Art According to Starbucks

I’m in an anonymous Starbuck’s in a LA suburb town.  It’s next to my mom’s old folks home and I use it for handy breaks and internet.  I look up and suddenly  I notice that I’ve  somehow I’ve fallen into a mixed media collage.

The drawn teapot is "finished" to the right in the negative space of sign and window.
The drawn teapot is “finished” to the right in the negative space of sign and window.

Okay, I decide to analyze the art.  Above we see a very popular style.  Its components: handwriting, chalk effect, white lines over a surface.  So ironic. Handwriting is arguably dying and it is probable the artist who designed this never saw a real chalkboard.  “Courier New” typeface is also popular with the crowd who’ve never used an actual typewriter.

Torn collage pieces
Torn collage pieces

Irregular transparent torn pieces, stencil underneath, and a painterly wash of white obscures the “canvas”.

Wall-sized mural detail
Wall-sized mural detail

It struck me that mixed media has entered mainstream art.  Notice use of maps, “encaustic”– the waxy seal– and graphite-looking line work.

Fantasy animal
Fantasy animal

The animal looks like it was assembled from transparent transfers of non-copyright material, similar to transfers from Dover beloved of Trader Joe’s brown paper bags.

Starbuck's mixed media
Starbuck’s mixed media

The original of this whole wall might have been under a yard wide.  It does look as if it was done as a physical rather than digital artwork, but I might be wrong.  A small piece photographed at high resolution can become huge.

Transparency, graphite lines, white lines, torn pieces, transfers, encaustic, canvas, washes, chalky lines:  mixed media today, and all can be imbibed visually along with that decaf soy latte.

On the March

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Turkeys strutting it along the boulevard in front of my urban studio! I’m a lark, an early riser.  I swear that you see the most interesting sights in any city in the morning.  This fellow was preening, opening his tail, and doing a mating dance for a stopped car  as I went early to the studio to prep for my art class.

In Bodrum, Turkey, I saw sheep being driven into the surf at the beach at dawn to wash them off, baaa-ing in the foam.  In Naples, Italy at dawn, the gentle sound of sweeping of the stoops and streets in front of the stores fills the air. This meditative cleanup of ancient byways readies space and soul  for a new day of commerce.  Later in the day this vanishes, filled with shouts, songs, scooters, and swearing. Continue reading → On the March