A while back, I posed a question on Instagram asking whether other artists prefer to tweeze out random brush hairs from their paintings or just allow them to exist as part of the painting process. Results were split between those that like a perfect surface and those that just live and let live.
UK artist Matthew Stone falls into the former category, his process involves photoshopping our imperfections of his paintings on glass, then printing the resulting digital images on wood panels, mirror, and acrylic.
Like my social media followers, I’m a bit split. I love a wonderfully perfect surface but at the same time I like the idea of allowing the entire process to show, even the imperfections. It’s a bit like the way we live our lives, isn’t it? Do we let others in on the little errors and missteps or do we present a perfectly rendered facade, only allowing those closest to us to see the blemishes?
Once upon a time, I collected anything and everything manatee. My sister-in-law collects mid-century kitchenware. My mom had a huge teapot collection. The things we love and use every day become a part of us, we transfer our spirit to them. With my mom gone, many of her things have gone to her kids and granddaughters. But she lives on with us through the things that were hers.
I love these paintings by Seattle artist Amy Spassov and all their jumbles of stuff. They remind me of the accumulations we make for ourselves over our lifetimes– whether we collect teapots or shoes or memories, those collectives say something about who we are, where we’ve been, what we’ve experienced.
We lay ourselves open in more ways than just physical nakedness. Baring our souls often requires much more bravery. We aren’t just our bodies but our spirits. And it is in those deepest places that our true selves reside.
As artists, we lay ourselves bare every time we put brush to canvas. We make ourselves vulnerable as we pour ourselves out in color and form. It is a scary thing to be an artist, to embrace the emotional roller coaster of putting ourselves out there and opening up what is inside for the world to see.
While Mr. F and I were living outside San Francisco, we both had a feeling of being hemmed in. Even though we were living in a small town in the mountains, the number of people had us feeling a bit cagey. Now we’re in another small town, but here in Idaho Falls, there is hardly any traffic and life is just more laid back.
These paintings by Los Angeles artist Seth Armstrong reminded me of the cages that we find ourselves in, sometimes of circumstance, sometimes of our own making.
Life doesn’t stand still. It is constantly moving, constantly changing. Some lives changing more so and more often than others. If our lives aren’t in some sort of state of transition, we aren’t growing and what is the point?
Philadelphia artist Elyce Abrams began a new series of work following the birth of her son, interpreting the changes found in her new reality.
I feel on the precipice of big change. Like Abrams work, right now, there are sections of my life that are butting up against each other and I’m left feeling pulled in too many different directions. I’ve had some exciting things happening lately and with those opportunities comes more responsibility, more pressure. As I add to my whole, something else may need to give way, to become smaller so that this new portion has room to grow. Sorry to be so cryptic, but change and transition is weighing on my mind heavily today and Abrams’ paintings spoke perfectly to my state of thought.
I think most artists would tell you that there is a build up of ideas, of creativity that happens within us, until we feel as if we might burst if we don’t get it out. Or conversely, if we let it build up too long without ablution, we might deflate like a slow leaking balloon.
In her expressive abstract paintings, Colorado artist Conn Ryder releases her own emotional responses to the experiences of life.
Caught in that built up feeling is where I am right now. We spent last Saturday hiking in the Grand Tetons and Sunday driving up through the mountains, gazing at waterfalls, marveling at the enormity of the sky, and glimpsing black bears. The inspiration is building and I feel like I’m ready to burst. But other responsibilities have been getting in the way. It’s something I need to work on, to work out, to find a way to do it all, to get it all out.
Some people look at us and see what they want to see. Others look and see exactly who we are, loving and accepting us without reserve. These paintings by Cesar Biojo with their obscured faces remind me of the way we are not always seen clearly, even by those we love.
Being seen as we truly are is a rare gift, one that should never be taken for granted. But it isn’t always the fault of the see-er. We need to reveal our own truths in order for them to be completely visible to others.
hover over the photo above and click through for a peek into the artist’s studio
As artists, once in a while, we come across someone who inspires us, who thinks the way we do, who spurs us to greater heights– artistic kindred spirits, if you will. I’ve featured Bay Area artist Jeffrey Beauchampbefore just recently, but the invitation for a visit to his studio before we left Marin County was too good to pass up and his work too good and inspiring not to share again!
I had so much going on personally while we were in Marin, that it was a challenge just to find the time to go to Jeff’s studio. Something always seemed to be getting in the way and we ended up putting it off until my next to last week in the Bay Area. I gave myself two hours to meet with Jeff before another appointment that day. But soon after we began talking, I found myself wishing we had met up sooner and that I had been able to give him more time that day.
The way Jeff works is almost antithetical to my process– he often takes years to finish a painting, while I rarely take more than an afternoon. Immediately, I felt like there was a lesson in that for me. That I need to have a willingness to take my time, to be able to let go and let something be for a while so that I know for sure where I need to take it.
Jeff lets his work sit, he is able to wait with it, to let it speak to him. To continue to work and rework until it reaches its conclusion. In doing so, there is a layered depth to his work that creates stunning visual texture.
the view from the ark, oil on canvas, 96×72
walrus suffrage gains ground, oil on paper, 28×20
There is also a willingness to be constantly experimenting and evolving his process. For instance, Jeff has recently begun a series of works on paper, reinforcing and validating my own decision to work on paper. We reveled in the distinct pleasure to be found in ripping the tape borders off upon completion! If you work on paper, you know that feeling well! Jeff has found, as have I, that in theory works on paper seem like they would come more fast and loose, but the work is the work and often creating a finished painting on paper takes as much time as painting on canvas or panel.
Another constant in Jeff’s practice is continually looking to and learning from the masters who have come before. For instance, he began a painting based on a Claude Lorrain drawing, taken from one of the many books strewn about his studio. Beginning with a sketch, he worked into the painting below and completely made it his own.
lorrain inspired sketch
proper & common- some of my best friends are nouns, oil on canvas, 60×72
Another lesson I took away from meeting with Jeff was the importance of pursuing what excites you and moves you, despite what may be trendy or popular. Though his landscape work is popular and sells well, Jeff loves to paint monumental figures and quirky narratives. It may take longer for these paintings to find their collectors, but once they do, he knows that they are collecting the work out of a passion for the visual story he is telling, a connection that doesn’t always exist with even the most beautiful landscape.
Mr. F and I have settled into our new spot for the next three months– Idaho Falls, Idaho. While it’s a huge change from living outside of San Francisco, you may be surprised at how excited we are to be here. The little town may not offer as much as we’ve had in Marin County, but we are less than two hours from Yellowstone & The Grand Tetons, which makes our little mountain loving hearts go pitter patter for sure!
Living in Northern California for the last year, we’ve found ourselves missing the impressive grandeur of tall, rocky peaks. Eastern Oregon artist James Lavadour captures the abstract grandeur of the mountainous landscapes we love so dearly.
We’ve talked to many people in our travels who feel a strong connection to the ocean, who feel the need to be near it always. The ocean has its undeniable beauty, for certain, but for us, it is in the mountains that our souls feel at home. To hike a ridge trail, looking out over endless peaks and valleys, to be above the clouds, watching birds soaring below and our spirits soaring with them. Lavadour’s paintings reveal in color and light that mysterious enchantment to be found among the mountains. I can’t wait to get out and feel their presence this weekend!