Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weeks 12 and 13 (Out and Back In) the Studio

The last two weeks have been incredibly busy writing, writing, writing but I think finally I am approaching putting closure on my paper.  I wanted to report on some things I have seen and done as I return to making more art and a bit less writing.  I want to start with my trip to Washington, DC with two dear friends...the perfect weekend though it was very crowded with the Cherry Blossom AND Japan Festivals underway.

We went to the Freer, National East, and West to look at paintings.  More than anything else I wanted to look at how different artists apply their brushstrokes.  So, let's start with some historical favorites. I was bowled over by a John Singer Sargent painting at the Freer Gallery titles Breakfast in the Loggia. Wow!  The knots of paint that made up the highlights were amazing.  Though sketchy, they were really convincing.  Also, notable were Whistler's nocturnes.  There were several nocturnes and of course the Peacock Room but on the bottom floor there is a beautiful collection of Whistler's nocturnes of which few were observed; many were done from memory. My favorite aside from all the prints is this one: Nocturne in Blue and Gold: Valparaiso.  This one I like for the thin brushwork and also the flecks of light. Beautiful!

At the National Gallery East I first looked at the moderns by starting with a Rothko show in the Tower. It was interesting but since most were black I can definitely say I like the ones with color more. The rest of the Meyerhoff collection was beautifully curated in terms of logic and included thematic rooms such as line, gesture, art on art and this is a teachable show.  Too bad it is so far away.  I encourage everyone to see it. Click here to view the information on this show. It is up for another week or so. In that show, my favorite example of brushwork was one like this painting by de Kooning that had action and density.

And also we went to a show of Small French Paintings. (You can click on the side menu to see some of the most famous artists.) I tended to gravitate towards some of the more obscure artists due to their brushwork.  I really enjoyed the works by La Tour who had two self-portraits. The first was very brushy and reminded me a bit of Goya. The second self-portrait reminded me of Eakins' work but the paint was denser. Also, I enjoyed looking at the brushwork in works by Andre Giroux and Jules-Romain Joyant. Of course there were several paintings of dogs that were very entertaining such as A King Charles Spaniel. At the end of the day, we visited with Leonardo, Vermeer...WOW, Van Eyck and Rembrandt.

Now that I have taken you on a tour all over the Smithsonian Museums, let me tell you about classroom and studio work. A few weeks ago I presented my work to fellow Princeton students in my Uncreative Writing class.  I talked about my images and techniques and in the spirit of Rembrandt I also did a painting demonstration this week in Professor Mann's Introduction to Humanities classroom at ACCC.  I painted the lower layers of a value map in earth tones. The student was a great subject as she looked like one of Rembrandt's subjects...perfect....and I gave her the study.

Last weekend I attended a workshop with Robert Stack.  In the image above you will see a peony field painted plein air last summer.  I have always had issues with this painting. I have struggled with the perspective, application of paint, color, etc.  So, it sat in a stack of works that I felt were beyond repair.

Interestingly, Robert did a demonstration where he covered his painting with gouache and watercolor.  I don't mean a thin wash...I mean covered.  The image was peeking through a rather dense layer of paint.  Then, using gouache either white or tinted with color he slowly retrieved the image modifying it as he went. There was a painterly quality now inherent in what was a very weak watercolor. I was a bit shocked as he got started but amazed as the painting progressed.

That being said, I got out my plein air painting and put a layer of gouache tinted with blue in the sky and ochre in the field and began to retrieve the painting from underneath the semi-opaque paint. I am far more satisfied with this painting now. It has a shimmer to it and it feels hazy which was far more indicative of the conditions than the original painting.  To keep the sense of field with few brushstrokes, I borrowed Corot's trick of including flecks of little white flowers here and there in the forefront of the painting.

I have been very busy creating an altered book. This was quite an undertaking. I decided to block the characters (my teacher and I discussed this process) and to prime them out with gesso. This project is the final assignment for my Uncreative Writing class at Princeton. I bought two books (a reverse thesaurus and a children's reader).  I created a new book titled From the Idea to the Word.

You can click on any image in this blog to see a much larger picture.

Cover of From the Idea to the Word
Inside with Pages in Gutted Book
Pages with Gutted Book
Gutted Book
Detail of Pages with One Word Per Page
Detail of the Page Titled Language
I altered the thesaurus creating a deep pocket for the pages of which aside from the frontispiece (a title page of sorts), each page spells a word.  As a whole, the pages make the following statement: You will never think about language the same way again. I promise you. These words were spoken by my teacher Kenny Goldsmith and you know what? As stated a few weeks ago, this promise was certainly kept.  Here are the images of the book closed, open and of some of the pages.  My fellow students are not aware but I will be distributing a page to each student and the teacher allowing them a keepsake and original piece of work from our class together. (I hope they like it....I think they will.)

So, as Princeton winds down I will attend my last Uncreative Writing class on Monday, a seminar on Tuesday as I try to put closure on my research paper.  Hopefully this will open up more studio time.  As always, please come back in a week or two and stay tuned for a complete digital portfolio of my Uncreative Writing pieces as well as more from in and out of the studio.


  1. Thanks for the mini museum and painting guide. It was both inspiring

    and educational. I hope you keep this blog going with posts like this one.

  2. Again, a joy to read your blog, Cheryl. I, too, love the works you mentioned in your first paragraph. Sargent and Vermeer and Whistler, oh my! Another fav is Sorolla...check his work out some time. His work is a little known treasure chest of light, color and brushstroke.

    Interesting technique with the use of gouache! Loved reading about it and thanks for sharing.

    Your book looks wonderful, too! Can't wait to see you and chat.