The Evolution Of A Mark, Part Two

Drawing is not what one sees but what one can make others see.
-Edgar Degas

Just about this time last year, I wrote The Evolution Of A Mark, in which I trace back to how and why I make the marks I make today…specifically speaking to the gouache paintings I’ve been developing on and off for many years and just recently got back into working again. Not just contemplating my navel, I’m hoping that by retracing how I got from there to here, I can help other artists look at their own work histories and trace back to what it is that sets their work apart. Once that thing is recognized, it can be developed.

My first post left off at gracefully closing the door on my textile design career and   blessedly opening a window into my fine art career at about my mid-20’s. I wanted a career in fine art, but I wasn’t a painter yet so I started by going back to my roots in textiles. I began by making art quilts that combined all of my loves at the time-photography, hand/machine sewing, found objects, beading, drawing, painting-pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. My modest success making and showing them got me into graduate school with a fellowship no less! I included some detail shots below…be kind, these quilts are OLD and so are the images.

Celebration detail, Portrait, Flower detail, Portrait detail, Flower detail, All: Hand and machine embroidered, quilted, beaded, fabric paints, found objects, photo transfers, fabric/paper collage, found fabrics

My work in grad school was (and still is) rooted in drawing connections between the earth and body. How I make these connections changed many times over the years with various explorations, but back then I was interested in making those connections through visual patterns. I started with art quilts but quickly dove into line work and using the sewing machine as a drawing tool. I was captivated by the sewn line as well as by the thread itself. There was something so simple and lovely in the pile of cut thread scraps on my sewing table that I started to use them in the quilts and as inspiration for drawings. So enthralled was I by the thread, I eventually abandoned the fabric base and just focused on making quilts out of the thread alone. My explorations led me to discover the magic of Solvy, a water-soluble embroidery stabilizer and I was hooked. My process was to cut threads from many spools and place them in a pile, then sew them together by following the flow of the clumps as I arranged them. I was so excited that this process developed from the basic process of sewing and this is where my interest in process as a form of art making was born. The sewn thread pieces resemble pelts, grass, hair, skin, which to me, spoke visually of both earth and body…another exciting thing that told me I was on the right track to combining process, materials and content.

Purity detail, Eleuthera, 12×12 inches, Purity, 6×4 feet each panel, Purity detail, White, 9×12 inches, Beginning, 2×3 feet, Rise, 4×5 feet, Beginning detail, Rise detail. All: Rust and Eco Stained fabrics, paint, machine quilted, embroidered, silk and cotton fabric, rayon thread.

From here, I made three 4×6 foot quilted ‘paintings’ for my thesis show that were comprised of the thread pieces, stained and painted fabrics, drawing and painting (pictured above). At the same time, I was also working on a series of drawings that started by manipulating and photocopying the threads, then using graphite paper to transcribe the photocopied images to another paper. The photocopy was placed on top, and the graphite paper underneath, I would then trace the photocopied image over and over without seeing the drawing I was creating underneath. The drawing created resembled a dense tangle of clumpy swirls, which referenced roots, veins, water systems and various other underlying channels integral to life.

Thread drawing photocopy detail, Clump 1, graphite on print paper, 22×30, Thread drawing photocopy, Thread drawing photocopy detail, Clump 2, graphite on print paper, 22×30

The repetitive act of tracing and sewing the threads embedded in my psyche and I found myself instinctively using it whenever I was drawing. I’ve created many series using this mark and it has varied over the years as you can see in the gallery below. Even with its variations, I’m pretty much stuck with it…or it’s stuck with me. See more of these paintings on my web site here and paintings on plexiglass here.

January in the Rockies 5, 9×12 inches, One Dark Cloud, 20×16 inches, January in the Rockies 3, 9×12 inches, Rain Over the Hill With Lake, 20×16 inches, Frost Fog, 16×20 inches

I hope you enjoyed this article and it’s helped you in some way. I always love hearing from you, so please feel free to comment (comment section is located in the upper left sidebar of this article). If you’re intrigued by line, want to find your personal mark or are just searching for some cool ways to add line to your encaustic paintings, my workshop at the encaustic conference is just for you! Read about it here and please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Stay tuned for my April blog posts-a two part series on the self-made residency I completed in January-February. I’ve gotten loads of questions about how to start one, where to stay, what to take, etc. and I’ll explain it all. I look forward to sharing this information with you and also sharing the work I produced during my residency. If you can’t wait, visit my Instagram for a sneak peak. See you in April, Happy Spring!

9 Art Works I Need To Exist

Continuing my quest to explore why art is needed in the world, I list 9 works that are of profound significance to me as an artist.

As I was writing my last post 5 Reasons Why the World Needs Art & Artists, I had wanted to include images of art works that have resonated with me, that I can’t imagine the world without. But instead of including them in the last post, I needed to honor them with their own post. To have examples of actual works drives home the point that art is needed in the world and you, as an artist, are needed in the world as well. I have to say that there are thousands of paintings, sculptures, installations, etc. that have made their mark in my world but to include all, of course, would need a whole blog devoted to the subject. (Actually, there such a blog called Oh What a World, What a World. It’s my first blog that unfortunately got hacked so I no longer can add to it, but you can still view the amazing artists on it.)

In order to pare down my list I came up with the following criteria…I had to have seen the work in person, I had to remember the work without too much thought or googling, the work had to mark a turning point in my thinking or life, I would have it my personal collection if I could and the number of works had to be less than ten. Now, you may have seen most of them before, they are not obscure, but that’s not what this list is about. This was an interesting exercise for me and although I write about each work, I can say that whenever I viewed these pieces, overall, I was immediately at peace and invited to escape into a dream for a moment.

Are there artworks that pop into your head that are of a profound significance to you? That for you, absolutely must live in the world? I’m curious what they are and what it is they did/do for you. Please add them in the comments section located on the left at the top of this post near the title.

  • Agnes Martin, The Rose, 1965, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 72×72   When I first saw this at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, I was still in my teens and I thought this plain old grid was so boring…then I looked closely and SAW it. It is a light pencil grid on an almost indiscernible pale pink ground. That an artist could capture the essence, delicacy and beauty of a rose within a simple grid pattern while using almost no color left me speechless and forever in love with exploring the possibilities of the grid.
  • Cy Twombly, Shades of Night, 1978, oil paint, oil stick, graphite on paper, 41×27  The PMA has a special room for the suite of 10 paintings, 50 Days at Iliam. When I first saw it, I was in my late teens and the work angered me. I loathed these paintings. Despite my strong feelings of hatred, they intrigued me and I always made it a point to visit these works every time I was at the museum. I would stand and stare at them, the marks, the movement, the paint application, the paintings were so large and aggressive! Each time, I had a strong reaction and my hatred eventually turned to love as I learned about Twombly’s work and myself as an artist. I must say that every time I visit this room or any of Twombly’s works, I learn something more about painting.
  • Klee, Fish Magic, 1925, oil, watercolor, on canvas, 38×46  Who doesn’t love this painting? It’s a relatively small work tucked into a dark corner of the museum. Reminiscent of a child’s scratchboard drawing, it was one of the first paintings that communicated to me the message that art can be fun!
  • Picasso, Young Girl With A Goat, 1906, oil on canvas, 54×40  This lovely painting hangs high on a wall, close to the ceiling at the Barnes Museum. Despite my many visits to the Barnes, it was only on a recent visit that I noticed it. I can’t really put into words what attracts me to this painting except that its pink and gold and just makes me happy. I was in a happy place when I first noticed it and when I see it now, it takes me back to that moment. If I suddenly come into a large amount of money, it’ll be the first painting I purchase.
  • Henri Rousseau, Carnival Evening, 1886, oil on canvas, 46×35  I was very young (maybe junior high?) when I first saw this painting at the PMA. I loved Rousseau’s dreamy, clean, graphic painting style. I could understand his work, unlike the abstract expressionist works my young mind wasn’t quite ready to absorb. This painting was a dream and for many years, the postcard I purchased in the museum bookstore allowed me to dive into that dream whenever I wanted.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe, Music, Pink and Blue 2, 1918, oil on canvas, 35×29  If you’re a fan of this blog, then you know of the profound effect Georgia O’Keeffe had on my growth as an artist. This particular work was the first art poster I had in my room as a young teen, (it even took the place of Sean Cassidy, but I digress). I had it right in front of my bed, so it was the first thing I saw in the morning. I got lost in the sensual forms, tracing them with my eyes as I got used to the morning light. This certainly had some effect on my visual memory and likely carries into my paintings to his day.
  • Sandy Skoglund, Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981, Cibachrome color photograph, 27×35  It was at the PMA that I first saw Skoglund’s work in my mid-20’s. I was always intrigued with photographs and loved how Skoglund could realize fantastical worlds in her work. Within a few years, I learned Photoshop and was on my way to realizing my own fantastical worlds.
  • Picasso, Glass of Absinthe, 1914, painted bronze with absinthe spoon, 8x4x3  I’m not a big Picasso fan, so I’m totally laughing right now that two of his works made it to this short list. Although I’m not a huge fan, I learned to appreciate his work when I took a summer art history class in grad school. I had to choose one work of Picasso’s in the PMA’s collection for my paper and this one was it. Before that time, I didn’t know Picasso had done any sculpture and I loved the intimate scale and general fun-ness of this one. I researched the piece extensively and fell in love with the whole series. Once again, I was pleased to learn that an artist could wear many hats, make work in many disciplines and just have fun, Picasso or not.
  • Leon Frederic, Four Seasons, 1894, oil on canvas, 49×32  I was very young when I saw these pieces at the PMA and to this day, still visit them whenever I’m at the museum. What I love about them is the joyful exuberance and pure love that the artist had for these works…love, that you as the viewer can actually feel standing in front of them. This was another postcard purchase that I carried with me and hung in my room for at least a decade, it always brought me joy whenever I looked at it.