June 5, 2014

Something New: Small Drawings


sd 1, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


I recently described myself as having a bad case of "multiple art personality disorder". My mind feels restless and open, enjoying the pursuit of new ideas. Actually, the idea for these small drawings has been percolating for a couple of years: I had a few pieces of rectangular parchment, on which I painted a couple of simple shapes, small and floating within a larger emptiness, inspired by Tantric drawings. Last year I did the same on pieces of toned paper, similar to the ones I am showing you now, but I just sat on the idea and didn't pursue it because I felt very uncertain about them. Well, I finally decided to tone a bunch of small pieces of paper, left over from tearing down sheets for my larger drawings; I prepared them at the same time as I did the paper for my most recent drawings. As I was painting the papers I was aiming for a variety of colors and surfaces, some with layered color, some transparent with brushmarks showing. I allowed a lot of accident, with puddling of color and inconsistent variations. (I describe the making of the hand-toned papers in this blog post.)

Then the big question was what to paint on them. I wanted them to have small shapes floating within the space of the paper; I thought of Tantric art and also the watercolors of Richard Tuttle. I began with sd 1 as I had with the similar work I'd done previously, by painting shapes on the paper, the larger square on the left, and two smaller ones at right.


sd 2, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


Then I thought about what I was doing and realized that just arbitrarily putting down shapes was the wrong way to go about it. I determined to look at the paper, to pay attention to its color, its shapes, and to see in the paper what to paint on it. So I looked at this deep blue and purple paper with its vertical darks and felt it needed a simple vertical, one that started as a fine point and ended a little wider and rounded. It is a very light blue that hovers above the dark.


sd 3, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


I love how this paper came out, almost like a violet and orange sunset. I painted a semicircular orange shape that repeated the rounded orange colors of the paper, and I added a small dot of red below it, giving it a tiny sliver of orange cradle below, hardly visible.


sd 4, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


In sd 4, the brush had left an arc just below the center, and it looked to me that a sphere was perfect to nestle in that space. The dark curve above repeated a curve of the paper color. 


sd 5, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


This paper is quite different in that I kept the color very transparent and the brush especially fluid. It seemed to need a simple arc of a contrasting yellow-green.


sd 6, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


sd 6 has some gold in the layering of pigment on the paper; the choice of the blue was for a color contrast. As for the shape of the cross, I was thinking of horizontal and vertical, two main earthly directions. I wasn't thinking of a religious symbol, though of course it's hard to remove those references.


sd 7, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


This paper was prepared with gold pigment (not real gold), so it changes its appearance with different light sources. I added shapes following the direction of the brushstrokes with which the gold is applied.


sd 8, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in.


Finally, a fairly dark paper on which I felt I wanted to keep the sense of dusk, so painted forms that don't float too far above the ground, being fairly dark in hue and though warm in color, not intense.
So....here I am, again with something new, again being very uncertain. There is something in the improvisational aspect of these drawings that is similar to the potato prints I've been making, which gives me a bit more confidence. I'm open to critique....


14 comments:

  1. The spontaneity of your experiments is delightful. My favorite of today's little series is sd 3, egg tempera on hand-toned paper, ca. 7 x 7 in. These small drawings, as you call them, make me want to touch them and get to my studio and have fun, too.--Mitzi Humphrey

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    1. Thanks so much, Mitzi. I couldn't be happier that the work makes you want to work.

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  2. So fresh, so engaging. I would love to see a wall of these exquisite moments.

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    1. Thanks, Deborah. It'll take a while to get a wall's worth, but I'll keep at them.

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  3. Maybe I'm stating the obvious here, which I seem to do a lot of, but for me these appear to be taking abstraction to the next level. I don't see your usual figure against ground aspect going on except in #1, the dark red square and #4, the round ball, which reference real objects and is probably not intentional or is transitional.The colors of the shapes overall are either too close in tone to the ground or not dimensional enough to suggest floating. They seem to be working more in conjunction and suggest a further departure from your more representational matter... your egg tempera shaped farm implement forms against ground forms and shadow shapes, leaving as little information about figure to ground relationship as possible in an attempt to leave an object oriented world, shifting more and more toward pure abstraction, letting the merging aspects of colors and mark making talk.

    With my own art, more and more I wonder why do my images always have to represent an object or a thing? Why do I always have to interject myself into the image, often as metaphor. As I get older I feel the need to simplify more and more, minimizing myself by letting light patterns, space, simplified color and forms say all that is important to me. Less become more. (I'm talking about my personal art, not my more commercialized images. Alison Perry

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    1. Thank you, Alison, for your thoughtful comment. I don't think about levels of abstraction, but I do think of difference. As you remark, my paintings have also gotten more abstract.

      I do also wonder about the part that aging has to do with this change in emphasis; maybe there is a yearning towards simplification.

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  4. It's funny how the first piece didn't grab me at all. The others are a bit mesmerizing as you can see the relationship between the strokes on the paper and the shapes you've placed on top. It seems you've really paid attention to the paper itself and added to it in a minimalistic yet fascinating way.

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    1. Thanks, Lori. I'm glad my paying attention to the paper is clear to you.

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  5. Abstraction. Simplification. Intention. Fascinating to see your process as you open up to possibilities. Like #2 and surprisingly, #6, as the "cross" hovers in space with a presence all its own, both grounded and celestial.

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    1. Thanks, Julie. How interesting that you'd say "surprisingly" for like the cross image. I guess we must have a resistance to it that is at times overcome.

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  6. Thanks for your post. I respond to many of the same influences you do, including the Tantra drawings. And, as I grow older, I have certainly become afflicted with multiple art personality disorder as well! I find as I go too far in one direction I am pulled back to another, filling out the circle. And, the desire to go toward simplicity also gets stronger, although the definition of simplicity seems to change. I was especially struck by your decision to really pay attention to the "imperfections" of the ground color and respond to them. Thanks so much for sharing your process.

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    1. Thanks for the interesting comment, Janine. I like how your write that "the definition of simplicity seems to change". And it is different for each of us in turn.

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