Monthly Archives: February 2012

Texture

Ever since I first encountered Cubism in my freshman art history classes, I have been entranced with the possibility of texture in a painting. Prior to enrolling at MICA, my exposure to art had been limited to the strictly traditional, and until I saw the Synthetic Cubist works of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, I had never considered the possibility of texture other than that provided by discrete brushwork.

Wikipedia:
“Synthetic Cubism was the second main movement within Cubism that was developed by Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris and others between 1912 and 1919. Synthetic cubism is characterized by the introduction of different textures, surfaces, collage elements, papier colle and a large variety of merged subject matter.”

Excited by the possibilities, I headed off to a nearby lumberyard to purchase a bag of sand, my first “experiment” in adding additional texture to my paints. At the time, I shamelessly copied the styles of the Cubists as well, having not developed a direction for myself at that early age. Over time, as my style has developed, I find I continue to be engaged with texture. Since my subject is landscape – and since landscape itself presents us with a infinite variety of natural textures, I find the possibilities inherent in a both material and technique lend itself to my vision of landscape. Back in the early 1900’s — and again in my early school years in the 1960’s, materials for such investigations were limited. Today, the choices of materials is greatly expanded, particularly in acrylic lines and I continue to explore. Dimensional lines poured onto a surface, paint with knife or spatula; digging, drawing, scratching into paint with stylus, knife, bamboo pens & various devised instruments, adding sand, modeling paste, pumice gel – these are all areas for further experimentation and play that meld texture to landscape in new ways.

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Encaustic

A friend of mine phoned to say that she had taken a brief  “introduction to encaustic” class at a local park.  She was enthusiastically recommending that I explore this medium as it seemed a match for my interest in building texture in my paintings. I knew next to nothing about encaustic at the time, but upon investigation, decided that it would be an interesting and fun adventure to investigate the medium for myself.

Encaustic is essentially painting with hot wax.   It is a very old process, most notably seen in early icons and the Fayum mummy portraits of Egypt which date from 100-300 AD. The process was revived in the 20th century by artist Jasper Johns and others.

Today there are artists who use the old methods for merging heated beeswax with various colored pigments to create the medium.  There are though some physical dangers involved in the process.  I found that a safer option was purchasing already pigmented wax from a bevy of reliable suppliers with products in a wide range of colors.

Working with hot wax is a very different experience than working with the malleable mediums of oil or acrylic, nor does it give the lush workability those mediums provide. Metal tools and special brushes can be used to apply and shape the wax, however the wax cools VERY quickly upon application to the painting surface thus it is usually further manipulated with heated metal tools as well as hairdryers, heat guns, and irons. There are artists who sculpt encaustic wax into three dimensional art, but, as stated, my interest was in exploring the use of wax to build up the surface texture of a board or canvas.

I have thus far completed only five pieces but intend to further investigate this very interesting medium.

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Texture & Colors

I find it intriguing but relatively unexplainable how individual artists choose such divergent pathways to expressing their creativity.  In the visual arts, each person is a unique mixture of influences that are built upon what I am assuming to be an inborn tendency towards a specific way of seeing and/or a pull towards certain inspirations.  I, for example, have no explanation for the fact that I have always been drawn to the textures of the natural world – the patterns in sand, in bark and wood, the intricacies of leaves and grasses and stone. They have great visual appeal for me and distill into abstractions to my eye.  From the first, I have been drawn – and not from a seemingly conscious choice – to explore the natural patterns of our world.

In the beginning, I was drawn to earth colored pigments as well– the rich greens of springtime grass, the browns of soil and bark, the cool gray tones of  stone and the varying blues of sky and sea.  In my freshman year at the Maryland Institute College of Art, I declared my favorite artist to be Georges Braque, particularly his Cubist period paintings executed in the soft tones of the earth.  I even added sand to my paints.  More texture!

At MICA, I was fortunate to have taken a class in basic color with Raoul Middleman and an Advanced Color course with Reba Stewart who had herself studied with the amazing Josef Albers at Yale.  These classes and subsequent experimentation have empowered my use of color, most specifically the way that color changes in relationship to its environment. On this subject – actually on painting in general, I declare “Ancora Imparo”, a statement attributed to Michelangelo and translated to “Yet I am learning”.

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