#57, egg tempera and graphite on paper hand toned with distemper, 15 x 15 in.
While I was thinking about the writing for this post, a couple of concepts related to art making came to mind: freedom, and intuition. First freedom: for me, one of the great things about being an artist is being able to do anything I want with my work, to change its direction, change ideas, mediums, formats, styles. Of course this can have implications outside the studio, such as losing a gallery when work changes direction, but I insist on my freedom of action. It has allowed me to try new ideas, such as these drawings based on Islamic design, which I began making three years ago.
#58, egg tempera and graphite on paper hand toned with distemper, 15 x 15 in.
I love the way these drawings have allowed me to explore color in a way that is completely different from that of my paintings. The patterns that emerge from the basic design have been varied and often surprising.
#59, egg tempera and graphite on paper hand toned with distemper, 15 x 15 in.
But freedom to begin something must also mean freedom to end it, and I'm now feeling that I've reached the end of my interest in working with this drawing format. When I look at the work itself, I think "oh no, you must keep going", but when I was working on this last group (one drawing ended in the trash) I was no longer happy in the making of them. For me, pleasure in working is very important, which doesn't mean that there isn't struggle or disappointment or uncertainty, but that the work brings satisfaction during its process. I began to feel with these drawings that I no longer wanted to draw the underlying pattern; it was like pulling teeth, to use a cliche. So, for now––because I never know what I'll want to do in future––these are the last of this series.
sd 49, egg tempera on paper painted with distemper, ca. 7 x 7 in.
I don't yet feel at a dead end with these small, painterly drawings. I began doing them about a year and a half ago, using small pieces of paper left over from tearing down large sheets for the Islamic-based drawings. I am still enjoying the process of painting with distemper––glue size (I use gelatin) and pigment––on hand made paper, and then adding a small shape or gesture in egg tempera paint. In the sd 49 the small blue rectangle at the bottom is painted in egg tempera.
sd 50, egg tempera on paper painted with distemper, ca. 7 x 7 in.
With these drawings, so different from most of my work––only my potato prints have a similar aesthetic––which is ordered and planned. These works might be said to have more intuition involved.
sd 51, egg tempera on paper painted with distemper, ca. 7 x 7 in.
Intuition: "an ability to understand or know something without needing to think about it or use reason to discover it, or a feeling that shows this ability." (Cambridge Dictionaries Online) It is certainly true that I am using more of an intuitive sensibility to paint, in distemper, the wide swath of dark red and more translucent red beneath and then to add the dark red line in egg tempera.
sd 52, egg tempera on paper painted with distemper, ca. 7 x 7 in.
Nothing is planned in these drawings; I am looking at the colors I have mixed with size, and with wide brushes apply them. But how much of intuition in art really is just that and how much comes from understanding and experience and years of working and looking?
sd 53, egg tempera on paper painted with distemper, ca. 7 x 7 in.
I feel that I couldn't have made these drawings (and I'm not claiming great quality for them) years ago, because I wouldn't have had the tools, of the hand or the eye or the mind.
sd 54, egg tempera on paper painted with distemper, ca. 7 x 7 in.
So, these drawings continue to interest me in that they challenge an aspect of my art personality that doesn't often have a chance to be used. And they are a way of playing with pure color. I am thinking I might try them a little larger, at 10 x 10 inches, but for that I might have to buy some much larger brushes....