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

vintage tools for making

i’ve been falling in love with vintage tools lately-the beauty of the form, the craftsmanship of the object itself…just looking at them, one gets a sense of the care, the love of the object that it was used to create. granted, these tools are mostly textile related, but i’m biased in that regard ; )

1. made from wood, mud, linen, string, paint, 2030-1802 BC, this percussion instrument called a paddle doll is modeled after a woman and consists of a flat piece of wood depicting the torso, rudimentary arms and neck, with “hair” made of beads strung on linen thread…here.

2. parts of a vintage African Ashanti Loom for Kente cloth. Kente is an ashanti ceremonial cloth that is hand woven on a horizontal treadle loom and the stripes are sewn together into larger pieces. kente cloth’s dates back to the 17th century and is a visual representation of african history, ethics, oral literature, philosophy, morality and religious beliefs…here.

3. vintage kenmore sewing machine model c877.15…here.

4. painted pine revolving spool holder with a pincushion finial, 19th century…here.

5. boston ballet costume, 1991…here.

6. scissors, c 1840, victoria & albert museum…here.

hot pink

a while ago, i did a painting with some hot pink-not a lot of hot pink, but just enough. it got a lot of interest at the gallery where it was housed and the feedback was always, ‘the client really likes the painting, but they just aren’t sure they can live with the pink.’

artists don’t pick colors to match the sofas of their collectors.

eventually, my painting sold and also graces the cover of encaustic art by jennifer margell.

i’m in love with hot pink, it still remains one of the first colors i reach for…it just makes me happy.

1. slime mold…here   2. flamingos…here   3. an evaporation pond bordering mowry slough in south san francisco bay. the color of the water is caused by halophilic micro-organisms...here   4. nicole andrijevic and tanya schultz, a.k.a. pip and pop…here   5. photographer, bruno suet…here  6. aino-maija metsola for marimekko…here   7. pink passion, 2011, irene suarez-model, rebeca saray-photographer…here    8. scanning electron micrograph (SEM) of butterfly wing scales…here

friday fragments

1. a child’s skull before losing baby teeth, 2. styrofoam insulation eaten by carpenter ants 3. watermelon snow, also known as snow algae, red snow or blood snow

fun little tidbits to start your weekend off right…enjoy and be inspired!

friday fragments

some flowers you may not find in your garden this spring…

1. Corpse Flower, bodiless, stemless, leafless and rootless, it requires the vine for its nourishment and support. It emits a pungent rotten flesh smell, which attracts flies and beetles to pollinate it. 2. Banana Tree Flower, according to Philippine folklore, the heart of the banana tree contains an magical charm that drops out of it at the stroke of midnight and whoever catches the charm in his mouth would be endowed with supernatural powers; that is, if he survives the mystical creatures who try to take the charm from him. 3. Baobab Flower, extremely large pendulous flowers which give way to ‘superfruits’ that contain 50% more calcium than spinach, are high in antioxidants, and have three times the vitamin C of an orange.

fun little tidbits to start your weekend off right…enjoy and be inspired!

SEM images

A scanning electron microscope (SEM) is a type of electron microscope that produces images of a sample by scanning it with a focused beam of electrons, which interact with atoms in the sample. this interaction produces various signals that can be detected and that contain information about the sample’s surface topography and composition, allowing us to see these amazing patterns, forms and textures that could have only been imagined before this wonderful technology was invented.

see more here, here and here.

friday fragments

1. A frost flower is created on autumn or early winter mornings when ice in extremely thin layers is pushed out from the stems of plants or occasionally wood…see more here. 2. very rare white zebra…see more here. 3. Silicified “Ghost trees” Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming by adam jones…see more here.

fun little tidbits to start your weekend off right…enjoy and be inspired!