Below are early stages of the piece I am presently working on.
You are welcome to come to the studio to see where it's at now, far beyond what you see here.
Very early stage.
The earliest stage was basically just the dark and light blues, laid on with brush and plastic baggie. I then started seeing shapes in the lower right dark area. This space developed in a way that informed me what might be going on in the center of the piece, which is where you see the painting here... with just suggestions of activity throughout.
Next in the progression of early stages.
I have been picking up a bit more form and space by adding highlights and shadows in the central area. My main concern is that I want the center to feel active, a bit foreboding, and not ...
...well, fearful. This painting was inspired by a man who said he couldn't look at blue artwork. I have learned that not everyone can look at all colors. There appears to be multiple reasons why. This intrigues me, so I am now painting into all aspects of blue, from dark to light, trying to reveal the beauty within the shadows and highlights of this color.
As with everything I make, I do not expect a certain outcome, but instead am intrigued by what is revealed one day to the next... and sometimes it is just a torrential argument with the paint. Ironically, these difficult areas often provide the depth my painting craves. Such is life, yes?
I am going to be in an art show soon but I didn't have the art finished by publicity time. The curator grumbled, but I felt uncertain about whether the painting would actually be the one I'd submit in the end, so I didn't rush it.
I then sent the painting to get framed and wondered if I should send the curator the image before I received the art all tidy in its new protective shell. Still I held back.
Today I picked up the framed piece. The framer messed with my painting! He removed paint and left a mark where he did so. I should think this is similar to a graphic artist in a newspaper production department crop editing the copy of an editor's article and leaving in an errant punctuation mark.
There is no way to repair the damage, but luckily the damaged area will be invisible to everyone except for me. Since I do miniatures where a magnifying glass is used for viewing, I'm bummed, though, because one of my art premises is that I don't correct my art: I always march forward without erasing anything. This painting now has a clearly erased spot on the clean white paper.
And now I ponder the irony: with a framer making editorial choices, yes, there actually was a distinct chance that the piece of art could have not ended up in the show. "Scalpel! ...oops...."
I'm uncertain right now what to do. This is when I think that if I could control the world I'd frame my own art. (But if I could control the world I wouldn't be concerned about tiny edits to my art, would I.)
Someone recently described my art as "Leigh is in her own world."
Today a visitor said when she looks at my work she sees the past, the present, and feels like she's traveled to many different countries... all in one piece of art.
We can only perceive through our own experiences. It is not a matter of being right or wrong in the way we looking at art, but rather, a matter of intention. To look into art is to see the world of the artist, and that world is only as big as the world of the viewer. It is the fascinated viewer who can look in at the artist's world and feel his/her own world expand.
A stranger asked me recently if my thinking is similar to my painting "Blue Migration", which he was looking at at the time. I said yes. He nodded. I didn't say more. He didn't ask more. He moved on to view other art. Later I realized that his insight into my thinking is still obscured. This piece of art does not generate a consistent reaction in viewers. Some people say the piece is chaotic. Others feel it is a dream. I've heard fear expressed about it. Most commonly expressed is delight and warm comfort. Some people say maybe they see birds and others find the avian forms plus a lot more. Many people just look and say nothing, keeping their thoughts to themselves.
I look at it and see all kinds of birds doing their thing... plus a few other creatures morphing in and out of existence. That's all.
But the way I interpret it is according to my own psyche just as that visitor had his own interpretation. I don't know how close other people get to my view of the piece. So, jumping out on a branch, I'll say what my interpretive mind sees:
The world is full of movement, variety, evolution at any given moment and this painting shows an awareness of this. Our memories fly in and out, our attention to detail shifts according to the focus of our eyes, and in this modern world we view a lot of life through mechanical lenses that might be symbolized as tunneled vision. Shifting reality is a rich and abundant enclosure that encases us as we fly towards the future. This is what I see in the painting. It is a portrait of how the human mind can grasp so much in an instant. It's a portrait of reality. It's as simple as a snapshot of a bush (if you don't want to put meaning on the birds) and as complex as the human mind (if you do).
I made the trip to Big Sur to visit my dear Pa, and he's as inspiringly comical as ever... even while ill. What a miracle it is that his cognitive remainders are so full of humor at this late stage in the mental game. I'm practicing my humor around the house, hoping to steer my own dotage in that direction.
Meanwhile, I came across three live individuals who might be imagined as the walking figure in "The Journey Man" (for different reasons). And today I read a story about a stone angel that kept appearing in a man's dream... making me smile because there is that stone angel that appeared in this same painting.
Since the characters and forms in my paintings come up out of the paper (I see them emerge as I paint along) I think of them as having both conscious and subconscious attributes, sometimes the compositions being so loosely formed as to be in similar construction as lucid dreams. Of course, I do not paint all of the images I see in the paper. That would be anarchy.
I have been reading William Soroyan. He appears to love humanity and feel bored by humanity all at the same time. Since he wrote before a lot of breakthroughs in scientific psychology it's pretty clear that his boredom came from a lack of stimulus from within. He didn't want to know what other people were saying. He felt comfortable in his own visions, his own inner sounds, his own senses of discovery. To look deeply into other ways of thinking that did not support his own style would do what?... Could this be competitiveness that caused his boredom? It's all very ironic because he was so sure of his deep perceptions of humanity, and in a good humanistically philosophical way, and at the same time such a blind fool. And, of course, he was intelligent enough to admit he might be a fool. There in lies his great voice.
I suppose all artists have to be blind in order to see and be seen. If we allow all of those strong and talented personalities out there to have their limelight within our heads the din would be so loud there wouldn't be any room for our own voices to be heard. So in order to be heard we do have to yell, to put in ear plugs, to fine tune our inner pitch so that we can hear the unique tones, notes, words and songs within the symphony that is our life.
A woman walked into my studio two days ago who spoke as she read one of my tiny paintings. She was singing her own song as she sang along with mine, as she introduced images into the painting that I had never known existed. I walked up close to see what she was seeing, and she was right! Her song was playing right there within my painting. By the end of the viewing we were in full duet. I now have Tibet inside my song of that painting and there is nothing boring about that.
Our relationship with the nonspecific aspect of abstract form continues to unfold as we live with a piece of art.
An example, I put on Leonard Cohen, glanced at "pilgrimage" in the last post, and saw a new form I'd never seen before. Since it is a very large form I am especially intrigued. If art duplicates life, then there are some mighty large issues out there I am not seeing.
These gouache paintings are impossible to accurately reproduce, the subtlety of color far too sophisticated for scan lights. The large dark blob is a lighter rust, the lines softly opaque. I originally named the piece to fit the foreground but now have changed it to address the figure in the middle ground.
I didn't have paper so I grabbed the ph-balanced foam core nearby. Putting a painting on one side caused the sheet to curl so I put paint on the reverse to even it out. Of course that meant I had to make the splotch of paint into something.
The after affects of an Open Studio are here: Someone has bought "Blue Migration". Now I feel like the little guy, flying alone in a calm space, heading off into new horizons.
The new owner is allowing me to keep the blue painting in my studio for a while. When I create large pieces I learn so much and pull on that info to create new works. When the painting leaves the studio I feel like I've lost a major resource. Since "Blue Migration" is so new I appreciate the new owner letting me sit on it for a while.
I keep one of my most interestingly painted canvases in my studio at all times just for that reason... as an inspirational resource of what is possible. ("Confronting Brown")
This is the part I look at for reference material. Whenever I see other people paint like this I get such a high! I do it in tiny form now (in gouache), and hope to get back into large versions when I am able to paint with oil again. There's no ventilation in my new studio, so I'm avoiding oil fumes. Maybe if I do the messiest work elsewhere and then bring the painting to the studio?
Meanwhile, I work with acrylic paint, as you see in the blue above.
This past weekend I was privileged to have dozens of strangers walk into my studio, view/interact with my work, and then kindly talk to me about how the art related to their own lives. As those who view my work know, I draw from a multitude of perspectives. Listening to the individual guests tell their personal stories and experiences was like having the people of my drawings come to life. Totally jazzy for me. Thanks for visiting and sharing everyone. What an uplift! (See January 7, 2014 post.)
This is in honor of 6 real individuals who have or are traveling through deep illness. One has died and another, a 15-year old, has a limited projected life span. A third is fighting cancer. The remaining three are struggling with illnesses that are not life threatening but take concentrated efforts to avoid physical pain.
What is remarkable about all of these individuals is they were/are striving for happiness no matter what, and achieving that happiness is the purest essence of human healing. Just as the able bodied can be horribly unhappy, the crippled and endangered can fight the pain and mindfully live in a space of joy.
How does an ill person achieve this joy? It is a scientific fact that our brains secrete happy juices when we do three different actions: Play, Care, Search. I call these the "healthy picks (pcs)." When I think back on the happiest moments of my day I like to ask myself... was I playing? ...caring for someone? ...searching for a new angle or topic of thought?
The 6 real individuals above were/are experts at positive thinking through use of playing, caring and searching. As long as the mind is interested in these three activities our positive brain juices reward us with good feelings and these in turn create more good feelings. Then we can go dance in the streets with Pharrell Williams even if we are on our backs in bed with no physical ability to prance vertically to the music.
It's all a matter of using our imaginations wisely. As an artist I have chosen to paint a caring image about illness. It involved a long search for me to find the right way to portray a balance of pain on the figure's face with the joy that is in her spirit. I began this piece in 2012 when I met the 15-year-old. Understanding exactly what I saw on her face took me over a year to distill.
As mentioned earlier in this blog, I am at present working on a large blue/white painting. My intention was to create something diffused, rather indistinct, but when I looked into my first layer of paint I saw so many birds I immediately tried instead to capture the avian chaos. One of my main frustrations about bird illustrations is that while the birds are clearly recognizable, a sense of movement is almost always missing. I am not so much interested in distinct differences between species as I am in wanting to capture birds doing their thing on land and in flight, their bodies abstracted into a flurry of shapes suggesting movement forwards and back through time and space.
I have lived with a bird watcher for 28 years and it seems osmosis is finally having its way with me. And with such a flurry of energy! This is a very confusing piece to tame! So far I've found within the rough first layers of paint at least 80 large or small bird shapes of multiple species and artistic genres. (Examples: Perigrine Falcon, Kingfisher, and swan. Representational, cartoon, and abstract.)
Because the piece is expressively abstracted the viewer has the opportunity to discover wings and feathers or beaks and talons within shapes that a moment before might have looked like gently rolling hills or shifting rocks and twigs. An iceberg becomes an upside down white bird breast becomes an iceberg again. A beak becomes a skull becomes a beak of a bird facing another direction. I'm having so much fun finding all of these points of perspective in the detail that I am wondering if the chaos of flight can actually be handled as well. Maybe this painting is too complex to be tamable. So many dripping avian splatters (bird poop) and whooshing flight lines and then the question of how to make an airy atmosphere feel grounded enough, safe enough, for the viewer to venture into. Part of me doesn't want this painting to be tamed. It's too much fun to fly around in while I'm solving problems with my paintbrush.
Where am I when I am not posting?
Sitting in my studio, trying to tame the chaos.
Here is a very early stage of the canvas I have been working on for the past three weeks.
Me being me, this painting will end up a very detailed whirl of events, and most likely full of color.
As of today I will be in four different group art shows. Three are located in California cities and one is in Chicago. The themes are "Equilibrium," "New Beginnings," "Our Natural World," and "Small Works." My mind wants to bend backwards and wonder what thought patterns inspired these topics. Why do we feel a need for balance? What have we lost? What is unnatural in our world? Who among us are comfortable with looking closely at the details of where we are right now?
Here's a detail as seen through a magnifying glass. The fun for me is discovering forms and figures I didn't even know I was creating because they were so small when I drew them. Under magnification all kinds of interesting possibilities appear. It just takes a positive attitude and the tools and energy to look.
I am a visual person who draws and paints about life, viewing the world from a variety of perspectives. Since I have one foot in civilization and one foot in nature, and my head isn't afraid of deep caverns or dizzying heights, I end up in some pretty interesting places. ~ ~ ~
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I have two blogs. Toldileigh.blogspot.com muses about the world through the lens of my art mind. The second blog, Maybeperhapsifyouwill.blogspot.com, is a bunch of nonsense I create by harvesting characters from my artwork and giving them dialogues.
All art/writings in blogs copyright Leigh Toldi unless otherwise specified.