“Gallery shows are fine, but Open Studios is the best because you get to see the whole history of what the artist has been working on. It’s much more fun to see the themes that develop over time.”
This was one of the best comments I heard during this year’s Open Studios. I was thinking about that, and the work I put up during Open Studios, and made some connections that I might have otherwise overlooked.
I’ve been billing myself as a printmaker for the past 7 years or so, but before I took up the carving tools most of my work was painting. Particularly, highly saturated and very personal landscapes. Trail’s End and Trees on a Ridge are fairly representative of the work I was doing.
Over time, I became somewhat dissatisfied with the work I was doing. Color was (is!) great fun, but what about structure? Layout? Was I too stiff? What about gesture? Was I being seduced by the pretty, and missing the essence? And so I began to remove color, and started working primarily in black, white, and blue.
I began more or less representationally, with a black & white(ish) version of Dead Tree. There’s actually quite a bit of subtle color, put in with colored pencil.
I began edging toward abstraction with Pothole #1, North Fork of the Tuolumne River.
Then I found a compass on eBay, the kind teachers use to draw on chalkboards: big. Then all chaos broke out and I went all abstract. This is one of the black/blue paintings I had on display during Open Studios; it’s called Schism.
And two of my favorites, Minotaur and Stoss.
Part of the great fun of these paintings is that they are BIG. I had a live-work loft in Oakland at the time, and tacked huge sheets of watercolor paper — that I bought by the roll — up on the wall. Here I am during Open Studios, standing in front of Palm Trees.
So what does this have to do with where I am today? Having dragged out and looked at some of my older work, I have noticed this:
Themes: line, motion, circles, cycles, myths, legends, ice, air, the wind, the intangible.
Color: I can see where the exploration of a limited palette led directly to the pleasures of working in black and white on linoleum. And when I put color back into prints, I go right back to the intense saturation of my painted landscapes. (This is not a bad thing.)
Going forward: My prints have been getting larger and larger, and this is a trend I want to continue. Last year I created a lot of prints with intense color; this is also something I want to get back to. And I want to continue to explore line and motion and even time in black and white.
And I want to get back to painting, too. I want a wall that I can tack paper on to and go wild. I want to sweep my whole arm to make a mark. I want to integrate my paintings and my prints in a sort of unified field theory.
I want to get back to work after a couple of months of shows and events. Stay tuned.