The Evolution of A Mark

How does an artist acquire a consistent style or voice? In this post, I trace how and where from my personal mark evolved.

Happy first day of Spring, my Art Bite Blog friends!!

Continuing from my last post on the topic of marks, as I sit down to write this post about the process of my recent acrylic and gouache paintings, (and pictured above) I realize I can’t write about them without first thinking about where and how the marks in these paintings originated. I also took into consideration the many conversations I’ve had with students and workshop participants regarding approaching galleries with a consistent ‘style’ or ‘voice’ and how an artist acquires such things. I look at my work from five years ago and it’s so drastically different from what I do today, yet when I look at the total evolution across the span of twenty years, I can see why the total body is related and it’s an interesting path. Giving lectures about my work has enabled me to chronologically trace back to where I am today, but I only go as far back as grad school and rarely go back that far anymore. I’ve recently started a huge studio clean-out and as a result I’ve come across work that I’ve long forgotten about. Seeing this work again is what prompted me to go back even further, to delve into some of the reasons why I do what I do today. I would like to explore that path a bit in this post and in a few future posts. Perhaps reading about my journey will help you to develop and/or trace your own.

I first considered art as a career in high school with the discovery of Hieronymus BoschGeorgia O’Keefe and Wassily Kandinsky, not necessarily at the same time or in that order. My high school boyfriend’s father had a huge book of Bosch’s paintings and we would stare at it for hours. I loved the tremendous detail, the chaotic imagination and narrative. These paintings taught me to spend time, look further, to notice the small things not overtly apparent at first glance. I hope to encourage the viewer to do the same with my work by my adding camouflaged details one has to look to find. I was intrigued by O’Keefe’s voluptuous, sensual and simplified forms, use of color, subtle shading, smooth brushstroke and feminine subject matter. At that time, I had never seen any work similar to hers-mine was a more traditional exposure to art with pastoral landscape, tight still life and other popular art/craft of the 70’s, like scary clowns, bull riders and macrame owls…but I digress. I read everything I could about O’Keefe, poured over her work and even taught myself to successfully draw value, light and shadow by copying her drawings. I discovered Kandinsky around the beginning of undergrad and was literally blown away by the abstract expressionist ideas of communicating emotions through marks, patterns, gesture and color and that one could make a whole painting by simply being inspired by the emotions and melodies evoked by music. This approach to art making was totally foreign, yet it resonated with me almost immediately and I saw in my mind the art I wanted to make. Even though it isn’t obvious, I see the influence of O’Keefe’s wonderful forms and Kandinsky’s rhythmic marks in almost all of my work of the past 30 years. See the images below for some of my favorite paintings by these artists.

Although it was not my choice, I went to design school instead of art school…Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, now Philadelphia University and my major was textile design. Throughout my schooling and subsequent ten year career as a textile designer, I learned the fundamentals of design..composition, color, scale, repetition, etc. and acquired a detailed painting hand by countless hours of DOING. My first job out of school was as a jacquard designer for home furnishings. The company was unique in that I could take on a line of fabrics and design everything from start to finish-from the painted designs, to choosing the weaves and colors, to correcting errors in the weaving mill and on the computer. I learned an exponential amount about all aspects of design and because I had to spend hours correcting the shape of a flower on the computer if I painted outside the lines, I developed a very tight painting hand and eye for detail. The mill had been a former tie manufacturer and my bosses, the new owners, had kept within the traditional style of florals, damasks and allover patterns, small to large scale. Designing fabrics for a large scale area like a wall or sofa presents certain problems in that the design must ‘flow’ evenly without certain elements creating a distracting line. Looking out for these kinds of design no-no’s helped me develop an excellent eye for balance and placement as well as that continuous flowing line still so prevalent in my work today.

After nostalgically writing that last paragraph, I must confess that I hated that textile designer job, I found so much of it creatively stifling and perfection seeking. Thirty years later, I am grateful for certain aspects of working as a designer and I’m certain I wouldn’t be the artist I am today without that early training. See the second group of images below where I have included some of my hand painted designs from that job. Keep in mind that the colors in the paintings only represent different weaves and not necessarily the colors used in the final fabric. It’s fun to look at these designs and see how my textile design background influenced my early encaustic paintings (and pictured below) as well as a tiny flicker of my recent acrylic and gouache series. If you don’t yet notice that tiny flicker, I will fill in the blanks as to where the marks in that series come from in a near future post.

Please don’t be discouraged if you don’t have thirty years to devote to developing your voice, or if your first career choice wasn’t a creative endeavor as mine was, a lot can be achieved with determination, maturity and persistence. As I have mentioned in many previous posts, drawing a little bit everyday is the road to developing your own mark. One of my favorite quotes from my favorite book, Art & Fear tells it like it is…What you need to know about the next piece is contained in the last piece. The place to learn about your materials is the last use of your materials. The place to learn about your execution is in your execution. The best information about what you love is in your last contact with what you love. Put simply, your work is your guide. In time, as an artists gestures become more assured, the chosen tools become almost an extension of the artists own spirit. In time, exploration gives way to expression. If you’re determined and persisting in working everyday, even if it’s a 15 minute drawing, you will achieve your artistic goals…guaranteed!

I hope you have enjoyed this post and it helps you in some way. As always, I look forward to your comments, questions and suggestions-the comments section is located at the upper left sidebar of this post. Stay tuned for an exciting April-a two part series focusing on inspiring hikes for artists with contributions from some of my artist friends. Covering hikes from all over the world, remote and urban, these hikes range from other-worldly to tranquil to transcendental.

Enjoy the first day of spring, see you soon.

Image Descriptions (From left to right, top to bottom)

  1. Georgia O’Keefe, Black Iris, 1926
  2. Georgia O’Keefe, Drawing XIII-I copied this drawing over and over, obsessed with learning to draw this way.
  3. Georgia O’Keefe, Drawing X, charcoal on paper
  4. Georgia O’Keefe, Blue and Green Music, 1919
  5. Georgia O’Keefe, Music, Pink and Blue, 1918-I had a framed poster of this painting in my room through high school, college and my first apartment.
  6. Georgia O’Keefe, Special Drawing No 9, charcoal on paper, 1915 -I remember reading in her biography that this drawing was done while she had a headache, I found it fascinating that she was able to capture such a thing.
  7. Wassily Kandinsky, Yellow Red Blue, 1925
  8. Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913, one of my all time favorite paintings.
  9. Wassily Kandinsky, Blue Circle, 1922
  10. Hieronymus Bosch, Concert in the Egg
  11. Hieronymus Bosch, detail, Garden of Earthly Delights
  12. Hieronymus Bosch, detail, Garden of Earthly Delights
  13. Wassily Kandinsky, Composition IX, 1936
  14. Hieronymus Bosch, detail, Garden of Earthly Delights
  15. Hieronymus Bosch, Garden of Earthly Delights
  16. Wassily Kandinsky, A Center, 1924

 

Image Descriptions (From left to right, top to bottom)

1-7.  Lorraine Glessner, home furnishing textile designs for Jacquard Fabrics, Inc., gouache on Bristol board, circa 1991-94.
8. Lorraine Glessner, Sprawl, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006
9. Lorraine Glessner, Seed, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006
10. Lorraine Glessner, Misguided Angel Redux, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 36x36x1.5, 2010
11. Lorraine Glessner, Flaupher, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006
12. Lorraine Glessner, Aggregate, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 24x42x1, 2006
13. Lorraine Glessner, Crush, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 24x2x1.5, 2010
14. Lorraine Glessner, Perfect Timing, encaustic, mixed media on rust printed silk on wood, 12x12x1, 2006

New Drawings Series

As promised in my last post, this months post is devoted to a new drawings series that I began during the workshop I taught in Torrey, Utah with artist friend, Jeff Juhlin. I continued to work with these drawings through subsequent travels and at home during the months to follow.

I should mention that my previous feeble attempts at drawing the Torrey landscape from life were just horrendous. Whenever I try to control anything I do in the art making process, it turns out to look contrived and just awful. This landscape is especially overwhelming, wherever you look there is something inspiring, something as an artist I wanted to capture and hold. I couldn’t do it by just doing it, I had to invent a process.

The focus of the workshop was making marks inspired by hikes through this amazing landscape and then translating those marks to encaustic paintings. One of our mark-making exercises was to collect items from the landscape that could be made into brushes or other types of mark-making tools. We then dipped these brushes and tools into Speedball Super Black India ink and made marks in response to meditations and sketches from our hikes. Working in my favorite 6×6 Stillman & Birn, Zeta series sketchbook**, I took a slightly different approach and instead made marks that loosely followed the contour of the landscape as I observed it through the studio window as well as from my sketches made on our hikes. These contour marks along with the brushes that made them are below.

I liked the marks I had made but I felt that something more was needed so I just started working back into them and responding to the marks with two of my favorite drawing pens..a Pilot G-Tec-C4 for thin lines and a small size Faber Castell Pitt artist pen for thicker lines. The results are so complex and full of life! I love that these drawings are made with a combination of my hand and the actual landscape itself. Unbelievably, through this simple process I arrived at drawings that look like what I had been trying to capture in those first unsuccessful drawings from life…and I got there through process and giving up a bit of control…two techniques that I constantly have to remind myself (and my students) to employ in the work.

These drawings are immensely gratifying, meditative and I just love the results. People I’ve shown them to ask me what I’m going to do with them and I haven’t really decided. I’m thinking that making them on larger sheets of paper might be an idea or using them somehow in my paintings might be another. Right now, I’m just going to focus on making more of them.

If these posts about Torrey, Utah have inspired you, you are in luck because Jeff Juhlin and I will be teaching in Torrey together again in August, 2017. Visit the updated blog post for details about this exciting workshop. If you are interested, you had better hurry…there are only 2 spots left!!

For even more inspiration, view two other posts on Torrey here and here. To learn more about employing process in your own work, see notes from a talk I gave last year at the International Encaustic Conference here. For more inspiration on lines, see this post here and follow my Marks Pinterest board here.

**I LOVE this sketchbook! Thick, quality paper that holds water media, ink, etc. and stays flat, without any curling or buckling. It’s very sturdy, stayed intact through six months of travel and many hikes. Get one, especially if you like to sketch in any kind of water media!

Inspired by…Lovely Lines

From May to August, I taught eight different workshops in eight different states, from big cites to remote locations where I barely got a cell signal. My favorite thing to do at the end of each teaching day is to treat myself to a walk around the town where I’m teaching and I almost always find something to inspire me. I take pictures of anything that attracts me during these walks and then organize them into folders, which I look at later for inspiration. Always attracted to line in everything I see, I put together this small, but strong, collection from my walks.

Perfect Palettes

While my advanced encaustic class at Arrowmont was outside doing their morning drawing exercises, I noticed these amazing colorations on the kiln just outside of my classroom. I became totally obsessed with capturing the subtle changes, exciting contrasts and marks on and between the bricks as well as the placement of the gridded pattern and some of the interesting sculptural moments. I see something different in each image.

Inspired by….Herring Cove, Cape Cod, Part 2

Part 2 of my dune hike inspiration is also focused on Herring Cove Beach where the parking lot is slowly sinking into the sea. I have no idea what happened here, but it was probably the result of protective dunes being washed away by a storm. It was a cloudy day with strong wind and currents, which made the sea look even angrier and the asphalt appear malleable and as black as lava. The contrast of the lead gray sky, dark water, white foam and black asphalt is truly brilliant, not to mention the painted white parking outline and the bright yellow barriers which added a touch of reality to a seriously surreal scene. It’s devastating to look at, but there is true beauty in this vulnerability and in the intense power of nature.

See Part 1 images here.

Inspired by…Herring Cove, Cape Cod, Part 1

Last week I was in gorgeous Provincetown, Cape Cod for the 10th International Encaustic Conference. I had three whole days to kill between the conference festivities and the post conference workshop I was teaching, so I went on a 6 mile hike adventure in the dunes by Herring Cove Beach.

When I hike, I take pictures with my phone of anything that strikes me, usually landscape-y kinds of things. But on this trip, there were two areas that stuck with me that I couldn’t stop photographing.

The first were these little found drawings of rose petals (roses grow wild on Cape Cod) and other natural detritus. As I walked, I was struck by how interestingly balanced were the compositions and materials in these little vignettes and all of them naturally shaped by the wind. All of the images shown here are exactly how I found them, I didn’t change them in any way. They will likely somehow find their way into paintings.

Stay tuned for next week’s post for the second group of images.