Archive for the ‘skin’ Category
Usually I have a little more time to sit with a piece before the end. This one went so fast at the end that I’m not sure what to call it yet. One thing though- painting goes faster lately. Things I used to agonize over take place like dancing. I need to go back and look at it again next week. This week has been a whirl of travel and changes, moving and adjusting. It seems strange that in the middle of the chaos and business this piece just sailed through.
*not much later* …and then the title just comes as fast as the piece did: the mask you only take off once
Here is the latest work on the new sculpted/stretched painting. The step you didn’t see here was where I worked on the back (blue/purple) layer and stitched up the middle (redish) layer. While I am dedicated to exposing process a little bit of mystery is in order from time to time.
Here you are seeing the freshly gessoed top layer I just attached with a temporary protective layer hiding the rest of the piece.
The gesso is lightly tinted to be similar to the under-skin color of the skin shade I will use (based on my own this time). I will be painting the final layer in oil tomorrow, barring catastrophe and then I will go over the whole piece, bringing the layers together as a whole.
I’m really loving this body of work- loving the sculptural and fiber elements.
They have meanings for me as to body and apart from body but I prefer to let the viewer approach them on their own terms rather than explain each one in detail.
Funny, while this one is not about adversity per se, the Emily Dickinson poem that gripped me as a teenager and stayed with me for years came back to the surface and kept quoting itself over the painting and sewing process:
No Rack can torture me –
My Soul — at Liberty –
Behind this mortal Bone
There knits a bolder One –
You cannot prick with saw –
Nor pierce with Scimitar –
Two Bodies — therefore be –
Bind One — The Other fly –
The Eagle of his Nest
No easier divest –
And gain the Sky
Than mayest Thou –
Except Thyself may be
Thine Enemy –
Captivity is Consciousness –
One thing that is true about this body of work though- it is about inner and outer selves and the tension within the body as a vessel of self in all its contradictions. I love them being both tortured and exposed and beautiful at the same time, prisons of self and platforms for the self…
I was on the fence about posting this, but being dedicated to exposing process, I did. Right now the middle layer is very close to what it will be, while the bottom layer is definitely an under-painting and will have more complexity. The top isn’t even attached to the frame yet, let alone painted.
Training one’s mind to see what colors will be instead of what they currently are so you can plan color interaction is no easy thing (especially because one color will make the color next to it look like a different color). There are times when paintings need to look wrong in order to be right later on.
Knowing this, I’m really enjoying this painting. I did the color on this this morning and it absolutely flew. I’m loving the muscular nature of the middle layer flying right from my mind onto the canvas. For some reason this stretched series comes out so naturally and easily.
Getting the bottom layer to play nice with the top two is going to be a challenge. It will need to glow and pulse, but not totally overpower. I’m counting on the hints of vein-blues in the top layer and the hints of purple and even touches of burgundy that will be in the bottom layer to connect it with the top two layers.
So far so good. I couldn’t leave for LA without at least starting the color. From here on until after the LA show I’ll be doing finishing touches on Identity Tapestry, installing it and witnessing the interaction.
AS for last time, I’ve been hand-molding each post bottom in heat-active moldable plastic. I’ve considered molds, but the only material that would work for that is epoxy (which I love the look and feel of and hate working with) and it may not actually be less time-intensive because to get them properly smooth I’d probably have to re-work each one.
This is the first hundred. As of Last night I’m up to 125. Just another 35 to go…
…and now to fill the hole in my color wheel with some dyeing. It will only take a few shades of purple and burgundy to balance out my yarn selection.
filling the hole.
Today I’m on my third piece in the Stretched Skin series and it’s starting to hit another level.
There are so many material and process things to consider when you are sculpting canvas using every trick you can find- tension, sewing, molding, manipulating. I’m using the knowledge of how fabric moves from my experience sewing and weaving- the way a weave is more flexible in certain directions and how it does and does not want to move. I even made a sort of hidden dart (a part of the fabric you take in, like on the waist of a dress) in the painting today to keep the visible fabric taut without losing the outline. In addition to thinking about how fabric itself will work I need to take into account how the gesso and the shrinkage will effect the fabric. Then there are the things that you are never supposed to do when you stretch a canvas- things that cause wrinkles for example. Those things are suddenly fair game… because sometimes I want wrinkles (like the top left corner of the second layer above) and so I break those rules too.
The tricky part is doing it all in a balanced enough way that the frame doesn’t warp. This also involves putting in some working tension lines that I will re-do to fit better aesthetically later. At this stage it’s about getting the tension right. For example- the zig-zag in the center slit-thing will become roughly parallel lines.
Right now the top layer is not attached (and will not be until I paint the bottom two) but I could see the bones of the piece for the first time today and it was very exciting.
This piece is taking the sculpting to a new level by using the draped/cast mask form. The new process could have gone more smoothly, but it’s looking exactly how I want it too now. Next time it will. Today the process of doing the two under-layers was fantastic. I’m getting a real feel for how to make the canvas do what I want it to and it just flies now. It’s a fantastic feeling. I’m really enjoying this piece and can’t wait to paint it.
The very first sculpted canvas I did was also the first painting on canvas that I ever did- sometime in 10th grade (’92?). I have never felt compelled by traditional rules for painting and was always interested in the space between painting and sculpture. Interestingly that same year a high school ceramics teacher bought a ceramics piece of mine because he thought it was a revolutionary way for painting to emerge in clay in 3D. Now doubt ceramics will come back into my life soon. In art school a made a few pieces that pushed those boundaries in an experimental way. Then I started to take it on in earnest in the Sculpted Canvas Series.
I have the feeling of my identity as an artist growing clearer and tighter (despite the many media and styles). I feel everything getting easier and paradoxically more interesting and challenging at the same time- the challenges are on a different level now. I’m looking forward to exploring them even farther in the upcoming MFA program.
I started out with several strategies in mind for how on earth I would get the look I wanted.
Last post I was debating doing a plaster positive. I ended up doing it as a backup, though it was too wet to use that day. It turns out it’s a good thing I did because it was essential today!
Sculpturally the easiest material to use for get the effect I wanted would have been paper- I could simply create a large Venetian-technique mask over the stretcher bars. But for me it had to be canvas. I love subverting the traditional medium of oil-on-canvas to make it do new and interesting things. I love it when people look at my sculpted canvases or skin painting and assume it must be other materials. I love the idea of canvas becoming skin too- a surface face we show the world. I seem to like making things difficult.
So… it must be canvas. In the end I did hours of elaborate propping, stretching, cutting, sewing, picking out stitches, weighing down, pinching etc. I was having a rotten time of it until I remembered to think about canvas as fabric again with more of a seamstress brain on. It needed to have some folds in the flat parts to make up volume for the raised mask part. Interestingly that’s how I first sketched it. Once I had that it was still a struggle to get the canvas to behave, but I got it there.
I did this time mix a small amount of plaster into my gesso, but that’s still not outside of classical painting anymore than wax is.
I had to run from the studio before I poked at it in some fatal way.
The edges and eye-holes will be re-cut, and after I reinforce the back of the mask I will be working the rest of the canvas a bit to stretch it into the frame. I will need to remove the whole thing, re-work it, do the back painting and then stretch this one in front. I ended up changing the diagonal at the last minute. I like the idea of the background painting soaring up and to the right while the mask looks down a bit. That was another tricky piece of this. I did not want the mask dead-on. It had to be turning slightly to the side. Dead-on would have been easier, but more static and a bit more trite. This one will have more intensity.
My art happens in many places: the studio, the cafe, the museum (including history and science museums), the wander, the train, the kitchen, the sewing area, the back yard, the industrial workspace, the standing desk, wherever I am watching my daughter and even the couch. This is where I get my work done, and in about that order.
Today work is happening in the kitchen.
I’m going to use techniques I learned from a mask-maker in Venice a few years back to add a three-dimensional quality to my next stretched skin painting. I’m using a copy of the wax positive I used for casting the glass part of “She reveals hidden color“. I never trust kilns- anything can go wrong and frequently does, so I made a copy of the face I sculpted in wax before I added the mask and put it the wax positive in plaster for the glass kiln. This means I have a life-sized wax head kicking around.
The way I would do this ideally would be to make another alginate mold (the squishy stuff they use in the dentist’s office to take impressions of your teeth) of the wax positive and then make a plaster positive from that, then do what I’m doing right now on the plaster one.
It will save me half a day and a lot of alginate to do it just on the wax… if it works. I just molded a wet layer of blotting paper to the wax face and applied a layer of glue on top of that. I will use several such layers, some with plaster mixed in.
The reason to use a plaster positive is that plaster absorbs moisture and the paper would dry more quickly. I’ll give it an hour while I work on things for Identity Tapestry. If this first layer hasn’t begun to dry I’ll make a plaster one.
So… art in the kitchen. It has the added benefit of being able to make tea at the same time.
So… now over to making new laser-cutting test files for improving the plaques on Identity Tapestry.
Obviously I believe in using any materials at hand to make the work as I see it in my mind, from centuries-old craft techniques, to traditional fine-art mediums, to lasers.
As of yesterday “Deborah’s Story” is finished.
I was right- it did need just a little more intensity in the red stitching.
Today I set out with my friend Debbie (whose story inspired the painting) to the DeYoung museum’s Gautier exhibit. It was wonderful to see the show, as fashion is an interest of mine, but all the better for the excellent company. It was great to be able to talk over ideas of identity, gender, race, identity politics etc. (not to mention fashion, art vs. craft, etc). with her. It was also great to sketch out an ideas for coming projects with her input and ear. Talking through ideas with other people is such an important part of my process and I have been spending far too little time doing it lately.
Debbie is excellent museum company. I find it very hard to go to exhibits with most people. Either they breeze through or there is an obligation to stick together for the entire thing. This is the second time we’ve been to a show together and it’s effortless. We leapfrog through. I stop to sketch, she looks at what she likes to, we come together and discuss, part and look at different things… but still largely at a similar pace. She’s similar enough to me that we completely connect at a deeper level and don’t need to explain very much to each other at that level, but we are also different enough to have very different experiences and perspectives on things. She’s awesome.
Better still I took her to the studio afterwards to see the painting she inspired. She told me the story some four years ago, but I thought of the piece fairly recently. I finished it yesterday and I’m pleased. I was thrilled that she liked it so much and got so much out of it.
She had associations with it that had not even occurred to me but which fit beautifully. The halves did fit the coloring of her mother and father as I hoped they would. I loved seeing her hand across the two sides. It so clearly fit. She was also able to see the more subtle layers of color and transparency in person that just don’t translate on the screen. I think I may try to do a version of that shot properly sometime with a serious camera and better lighting. Done right it’s another piece by itself.
I also discovered that when she is tan she is the perfect shade to model coloring on the Pieta piece! Yes! This means I can start back up on that when she gets back from Paris and I finish this iteration of Identity Tapestry for the LA show.
I had a wonderful day. Museums and conversations feed my brain and I got that. I’m also over the moon that everything between her and this piece was so good. It meant a lot to me that she be happy with it. Her only request was that I use her birth name for the title rather than the shortened nickname-version, and so I have.
I love having other people become willing parts of and participants in my work- their thoughts, experiences… even parts of their physicality. It’s wonderful.
At least the painting part is
I’m thinking I may want to consider re-stitching the center. I may want a little more visual impact at a distance, a little more obvious red. We’ll see. I usually like to let a new piece sit when I think it might be done. Sometimes it asks for more when I next look at it, sometimes it doesn’t. You need to distinguish the voice that tells you to overwork and pick at a piece from the one that genuinely asks for something more.
If you overwork a piece you tend to kill it. You can of course push through even that and re-create after the destruction, but that usually creates another piece entirely. When you feel that tendency, it’s time to take a walk out of the studio and possibly face the painting to the wall until you have fresh eyes. Sometimes it’s just best to go home.I always try to have at least two pieces in progress in the studio so that if I’m stuck on one for whatever reason I can work on the other. Otherwise I might avoid the studio altogether and that would be a mistake.
There is also that urge to poke at work when you ship it to a show or collector. I don’t let myself really look at work when I’m preparing to send it. It makes it harder to let go of and it makes me want to rework it.
It’s funny- you get these relationships with pieces. You adore them and want to see them every day, you resent them at times, argue with them, revel in them, worry for their safety when they are sent away… sometimes they are like a child, sometimes a lover, sometimes a comfortable old friend and sometimes someone you love but don’t like very much at the moment. It’s all there.
All of that said, I have a feeling this one needs the red stitching to be 3 times as thick.
Getting closer. It’s funny, I have about fourteen different colors that I mixed to perfectly match different parts of her skin (cheek, lips, inside wrist, back of hand, veins, shoulders, neck, forehead…). But they are only hints for me about the colors in the painting because she is somewhere in the middle of these two sides. I tried to do the sides as she described her parents with reference to the particular tones in her skin, using the vast collection of skin-color samples I’ve collected for another painting.
I wanted it to feel strained and a little imbalanced, but it needs a little subtle re-working to not just feel off and make you want to just remove two inches of the right side. I think a little shift in the bottom left curve of the surface layer will do it.
There is stitching to do once it’s dry, redoing the center stitches in red and finishing the bottom. I’m looking forward to seeing the red cut through the front layer and unite it with the back. Still, you can now see the proper texture of the surface- looking more like leather or skin than canvas. I’m happy with the subtle layering of color. It will take a proper professional photo to get true colors for this piece though. The slightest change in light or glare and it just doesn’t look the same. These are studio snap-shots taken with my phone. You can see how different the colors get with the same camera in the same light (different automatic adjusting presumably) just looking at these two pictures.
More on this painting here.
I had to remind myself not to space the holes evenly so I would get a little bulge and tension. I didn’t want the two sides to look comfortably knit or healed. It’s working.
I even got the under-painting done today. In the case of the pale-skinned side it’s several shades paler and more blue-toned than it will be when finished (though it looks almost white in this photo!). This is so that I can build darker shades on top a little more translucently for the light to go through and bounce off the lighter ones in back. Darker skin is a little more opaque, so less to worry about there, though looking at it now I think I need more blue and a shade paler in the under-layer on that side as well.
The connecting thread is a placeholder because as you see it will get paint on it. The final thread there will be deep red and will go on when the painting is done and dry.
Nearly done! The next piece in this series is sketched out and I’m working through how to do certain parts technically- that one is going to be more sculptural.
For those of you just tuning in, this painting comes from a story a particular friend told me about growing up bi-racial and going to visit her white grandma in the south in the summer. It’s not a general commentary, but a portrait of a person I know in a particular time and place.