Friday, July 13, 2007

Tiny Virtues

Today, I want to delve into the creative process and meaning behind my painting, "Tiny Virtues." I think it is important to have an opportunity to discuss a work of art with the viewer and for the artist and the viewer to have a dialog about the work. This is not always possible, actually most of the time, this is not possible. Art openings are usually crowded, and it is hard to have an intimate discussion with the viewer about the work, or the work is being shown away from the artist, and unfortunately the artist and viewer will never meet. I am excited to have this opportunity to discuss this piece and my painting process with you.

When I go into my studio to paint, I know a few things for sure. I know that I am an abstract painter. I know that some of my paintings may have an implied horizon line, and organic shapes that resemble a known object, but that my main goal is for my work to be intrinsically abstract in nature.

I know that I love color. I am drawn to deep, rich colors that include blues, greens, deep yellows, golds, oranges, deep rusty reds, and olive greens. I know that I love texture, whether the paint is thick and craggy or creates a subtle texture that resembles those found in nature, such as lichen, mold or rust, these patterns have always appealed to me. I know that I love gritty pencil lines, and charcoal smudges. I know that I love oval and smooth rounded organic shapes. I like how colors can float on top of each other to produce something new, create depth, and illumination.

I know that I work fast, and that I work on several paintings at a time.

So, these are some of the basic things I know before I paint. Everything after this is usually intuitive, and process based. It is a journey of sorts, and many problems come up along the way, and the fun is solving the problems. I work with the materials as I maintain balance and intensity, as well as creating works that will connect with one another in a series while not being too repetitious.

My actual painting process varies some from one painting to another, but there are some basic aspects that are common.

The process behind the painting "Tiny Virtues," started off with a ground color. I cover the whole canvas with a yellow ochre or gold acrylic paint and then allow it to dry.

My next step in this process is to take a dark oil color, a rich brown and cover the entire painting. I use walnut oil in my paint and make rich earthy brown syrup that glides over the canvas. When the whole painting is now brown, I then spray it down with water, and let the water bead up on the oily surface. I then take different types of paper, sometimes newsprint, sometimes heavier drawing paper and cover the wet painting, to let the paper absorb the paint and the water. As I pull the paper off the canvas, the paint is lifted as well and leaves behind a texture and the yellow is now glowing from behind the brown surface. There are shapes left behind from the water and the paper, due to the amount of pressure I applied to the surface. If I like what I see I leave it to dry for several days, or I keep working until I have the surface that I desire.

The next step in the piece "Tiny Virtues," is the ovals. I have created these ovals by a stencil (an index card where I drew and cut out the shapes I desired) I wanted to regulate the shapes, and making my own stencil seemed to make sense. I have dubbed these ovals "comfort shapes." I feel compelled to make these shapes, it seems like the most natural and comfortable shape my hand wants to draw. I have always loved pods, ovals, and any rounded organic shape. It seems like the shapes brings a peace and comfort to those who see them as well as those compelled to draw them. Sometimes these shapes represent feelings or hold the essence of something unspoken. I view them as little sentient beings; sometimes they can be isolated or flock together. Sometimes they are solemn or ghostly, while other times they are playful. I painted in the oval shapes with gold, and they have a texture of brush strokes with a bit of relief. I let these shapes dry.

The final step in the painting is the blue horizontal swaths of color across the piece. This is my favorite blue, and is created by mixing a blue and a brown together to create a luscious blue green that is rich and mysterious (I am always surprised that all my paintings aren't this blue as I love this special color so much). The blue paint is brushed on in a way that the stripes aren’t perfectly filled in, creating a sense of urgency. When this final step is done, I look at the painting and make sure it "clicks" for me. For me, the work needs to feel balanced, with all the elements involved getting their due and yet there is a mystery still unfolding. I like all my paintings to have a mysterious edge about them.

As the painting process ends, the titling process begins. I have to get to know the work awhile before the title emerges. I love words and I love atmosphere- and I try to convey that in my titles, while also alerting the viewer to an element of the painting that they might have missed just under the surface. I use the titles to create another layer of the mystery. This piece is titled "Tiny Virtues," and is all about the ovals. The painting is large, and there are lots of areas and textures that vie for the viewer’s attention, yet the ovals hover in the space caught by the blue bands, they are suspended. They are the tiny virtues. We often just see the larger picture, but floating in front of us are the tiny virtues. The little gifts in life, like fireflies, or some dark encapsulated beauty that is unnamed floating around us without our knowledge.

I hope you have enjoyed getting to know a little about my painting process and the piece "Tiny Virtues" as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you.

"Tiny Virtues" is currently on view at Lacuna Modern Interiors located at 620 N. College Ave. in Fayetteville, Arkansas along with three other of my paintings. This piece is for sale through the DDP gallery in Fayetteville.


  1. Very interesting to read how your artwork comes together. That is something most people never learn when they look at artwork. It is a great privledge to be able to visit an artist's studio - even if it is a virtual tour.

    You have a fantastic sense of colour. I'd like to pick your brain. I can never make decisions about colour.

    I love the way a 'real artist' always has that last touch to a painting that pulls everything together in a way that changes the painting and makes it complete.

    Keep going - I'm sure I'm not alone reading these posts!

  2. What a great post! I've always been curious about how a painter goes about creating a piece. You explain it very well.

    More, please!