Marianne Morris | Artist

Living Life in Full Colour

Tag: Abstract Paintings (page 1 of 2)

Undercurrent

abstract painting in neutrals and magenta

“Undercurrent”, 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

I’m slowly making my way through the pile of canvases I have stashed in my studio. In a perfect world, I’d use up the ones I have sitting around before I go and buy new ones, but I doubt it will work that way. I’ve already got some vague idea about how I want this work displayed, and what I’ve got hanging around isn’t really going to fit. And I usually like to have a selection of small pieces done before moving on to the bigger ones.  There is something about working that way that keeps me in my flow state.

I’ve written before about how working in a series keeps my momentum going. I know that is how my brain works. Being somewhat easily distracted, I know that going off in a different direction can sometimes derail me completely. Even so, I’m looking forward to participating in some plein-air sessions a local artist is arranging over the summer. I like painting landscapes, but hopefully not enough that it will completely distract me. I don’t think I particularly like painting plein-air (which only means, for you non-artist type people, painting outside on location), but I’ve only done it a couple times so maybe I haven’t given it a decent opportunity to enthrall me. It’s worth trying again, and it will get me outside my studio on my days off work. I can foresee this current project becoming all consuming, and the summer disappearing without me taking the time to enjoy it. That won’t do. I’m trapped in a building 40+ hours a week. I refuse to spend all my remaining time indoors.

As I write this, the sun is streaming in my windows and the radio says it’s a balmy 12°C. Ok, maybe that’s not so balmy, but after a Canadian winter, it feels wonderful. I’m going to head outside for a long, meditative walk before I start my weekend work. Hopefully, it will get me into the right state of mind to figure out what I’m doing with the canvas I covered with drywall compound a couple days ago. Because at the moment, I really don’t have a clue.

Hidden Pathway

abstract painting in neutrals and magenta

“Hidden Pathway” 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

I work on many paintings at a time. I sometimes have as many as 10 going at once, all in various stages of completion. I find that there will always be one that I don’t like at all, and I am willing to make bold changes because I’m not as invested. It often becomes my favourite.

Right now I have 6 going… well 4, if you don’t count the two I have decided are finished. The three small ones came together fairly easily. The three larger ones are not working. At all. There is one I must have 5 layers of paint on already, and I still hate it. I don’t know why.

I’ve discussed with a few of my artist friends putting together a critique group to help each other when this happens. I know I’m not the only one who goes through this (though I may be the only one to admit it publicly). Sometimes you just need someone else to have a look, and make a suggestion. It really does help. So far though, no one has had time. We all have day jobs, or other obligations, and at the end of the day we are wiped. Myself included. The small, online trial of the group failed miserably, as I was the only one who ever posted anything. After a few months we abandoned it.

I think I need to approach this another way. In reading biographies of famous artists, I know that they socialized with other artists. They hung out together, drank wine together, discussed books and went to events together…. all we ever seem to do here is gather at gallery openings, chat for an hour and retire to our respective homes. While we all know each other, it’s not like we are a cohesive group of friends. Maybe that’s what we need.

Personally, I love hanging out with creative people. They approach life in a different way. A group of creatives can turn an everyday experience into an event. The discussion is lively, they challenge your way of thinking, they are usually well-informed and willing to get involved.  I know that the only way I am going to have that group of friends to do things with is if I step out of my comfort zone and organize something. So that is what I am going to do. Wish me luck.

The Space Between. A meditation.

A meditation on space and connection, abstract shapes in neutrals and bright magenta.

“The Space Between”, 12×12″ Acrylic on canvas.

A while back, when I was off work dealing with some health issues,  I was told repeatedly that I had to reduce the amount of stress in my life. Since I had no idea how to do that, I talked to a councillor who specialized in stress management. She sent me a bunch of books, some of which I’ve read, and advised me to learn how to meditate. Mindfulness was something that would help me immensely, she says, from stress reduction to pain management (I have a back issue that I’ve been coping with since I was a teenager. There are times when I am pain-free, but it’s not a normal state for me).

Since my trip to Portugal in January I have managed to take the chaos of work in stride. I was rested enough that I could ignore the insanity of the deadlines, roll my eyes at the technical ignorance of those asking for the impossible, and laugh with my coworkers over the unrealistic expectations of management.

Over the past two weeks, my vacation zen has deserted me. It started with the shocking news that an artist friend of mine had, quite suddenly, passed away from a heart attack. She was such wonderful company, often when I was dropping off work at her gallery space I would stay for an hour or more to talk, her filling me in on the latest community goings on as other artists would file in and join the conversation. The monday after her funeral, we were informed one of my coworkers had suddenly passed away. The third, because there is always a third it seems,  was my cousin’s child… a mere 26 years old, and only a few short years older than my own son. It has been a stark reminder of the fragility and impermanence of life, and a very clear message to me that I need to spend what limited time I have here with people whose company I enjoy, and doing the things I love.

I decided to try taking this meditation thing seriously. I have tried a few times before, but I’m so easily distracted that after a minute or two I would give up. I’ve downloaded apps on my phone, I’ve tried audio “guided meditation”, I’ve done yoga breathing exercises. The only thing that has worked at all was a guided drawing meditation that I found online. I realized that creating, for me anyway, is meditation. It is the only time I am completely and totally in the moment. I am calm. The next best thing is walking alone outside… I will still often have the story running in my head, but I can sometimes manage to quiet that and observe my immediate surroundings. I’ve done both these things in this past week. I need to get going with these paintings anyway, so incorporating my studio time with meditation may actually be a way to cope that works for me. I guess the only way to find out is to try.

And… I’m off….

Last week I asked for suggestions, and I got a good one from Toronto artist Kevin Ghiglione (whose encaustic paintings I think are pretty amazing. I even own one). Here’s what he said:

Hi Marianne – abstraction will be a great way to present your new bodywork. Why don’t you gather up all of the inspiring photographs from your trip and put together and maybe something will come of that. There will be shapes. There will be colours. Patina. And I’m sure there will be feelings too – both passive and experienced. Try talking it through with a friend or an associate – because when you take all those dreamlike thoughts from your brain and talk about them and explain them – the simple fact of putting these thoughts into concrete words will make it much more concrete for you. I’m really excited what you going to produce!

Always one to try a suggestion, particularly if I’ve asked for it, I gave it a go. I looked through my photos and flipped through my sketchbook. I wrote some stream of consciousness about what I was looking at. I talked, to myself mostly, about what I found interesting and the visual cues that excited me. Then I set about painting.

The blue page I had started already, but had lost the thread of it part way thorough, and put it away. I had it finished within 20 minutes. While I’m not thrilled with the shapes, I do like the way you get the feeling there is something going on behind the surface. The charcoal marks and the spattering of ink peek through what could be a window or a passageway. I’m satisfied enough that I know I want to pursue the idea of covering up and scraping back… kind of like uncovering the old and decrepit under the new and the smooth.

The pink page I started with an idea of how I wanted to approach it, and I think it is my most successful of these experiments. The shapes work, the textures are lovely, and I like the way the linework doesn’t get obliterated by the paint.

I think I’ve got a path now. I’ve prepped some smaller canvases to start… a bunch of 12×12″ and a few 24×24″. I have a few large ones waiting as well, but I want to have a good idea of what I’m doing before I start those. We shall see how it goes.

A fine mess I’ve made here…

journal painting

I painted over this one 3 or 4 times. I’m not impressed, but I finally just decided to move on. Looking at it now, a few days later, I can see what’s wrong with it. Time, I suppose, is the artist’s friend.

While I’m in my exploratory stage, I do my best work when I approach it without any semblance of a plan. Not that hard really, knowing that even when I do have a plan, it very rarely works out the way I think it will.

Working as I do, I always get caught up in something. Sometimes it’s the way the paint is flowing, sometimes it is a subject, or maybe an emotion. I will try to identify what it is that grabs me, and then keep following the thread until I get to the end… or I lose interest, whichever comes first. That may be a half-dozen pieces, or it could keep me occupied for much, much longer. For instance, my Fascinating Rhythm series ended up being almost 50 paintings, and took me close to 2 years.

For this project, while I’ve identified what I loved about my trip to Portugal, I’ve yet to figure out how I’m going to translate that visually. I don’t particularly want to paint a bunch of landscapes. I could, and they would probably sell, but I’m much more interested painting abstracts. Maybe it’s time to forget about doing a concrete “inspired by” kind of collection, and just let its influence come through however it decides to show up. Any of my artist friends have suggestions on that?

ink drawing of a Beagle, Boarder CollieX

This little doggie was distracting me. She wanted my undivided attention at all times.

This week my work time was seriously curtailed by the furry visitor we had. Destiny is a beagle, border collie cross… and spending time with her you could see exactly how each breed influenced her personality. Nose to the ground for the entire time we were outside, going faster than any big dog I’ve walked, but stubbornly refusing to move if she smelled something interesting. That’s so Beagle. Inside, she would stare a hole through me if I was not paying attention to her. She wanted to be in my lap if at all possible. Made it a bit difficult to paint. Still, it was fun to have her here. And it is short term. If she were my dog I’d have to figure something out, but now she’s gone home, and I have a week free before the next one arrives. I’m certain I’ll get my paintings figured out by next week. I need to…. the clock is ticking.

Finding Direction

Visual Journal abstract entry in blue and gold

My intent here was to create a background that I could draw on with ink and white pastel. But I got a bit carried away with the paint.

Somehow I’ve become a carrier of a sketchbook. It’s not something that I’ve done regularly over the years… I’ve always had a sketchbook, and I’ve worked in it now and then, but it’s never been something I always had with me. It would usually take me a year  or more to fill one up. I think it’s because I paint more than I draw, and instead of going out and drawing the world around me, I would take a more “visual journal” approach with a book that could stand up to a bit of abuse.

I’ve been carrying this book around with me for the past two months. It’s almost full. All the practice has been good… I’m most definitely seeing improvement. But I have a show in October, and I need to figure out what I’m going to paint. So I went back to my tried and true, and made myself a little book out of watercolour paper, and started to paint.

Since I’ve been drawing in ink, my first thought was that I could do some mixed media kind of thing, using paint and india ink. I got out my paints and started, thinking I’d do a background, then add in some kind of abstract drawing, and take it from there. It didn’t quite work the way I had planned. I got totally absorbed in the way the paint flowed. I was mesmerized. I had painted something very much resembling work I’ve done before.

Back to the drawing board… this time I started with the drawing. I tried to draw one of the many stone archways I have in my sketchbook, only this time using a stick so I would have very little control over the resulting marks. I just ended up making a mess. The ink spattered and caught, but the shapes were interesting. Once it dried I used paint to try to pull the random marks into some kind of composition. It’s not bad, but a bit too chopped up. I did manage to capture the feel of a passageway though, so that’s encouraging.

I still have a bit of work to do. If somehow I could manage to combine the two approaches into something cohesive, I may have a something I can work with.

Abstract painting of an archway

Again, I thought I’d do a background and draw over top. Again, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Guest Post: Collage artist Linda VanWyk

Collage painting by Linda VanWyck.

Collage painting “Collaboration in Nature”,  by artist Linda VanWyk.

I’ve decided to start something new here. I have so many wonderfully talented friends making some fabulous art, that I wanted to share with my readers. So in 2017, every now and again I’m going to have a guest artist here on my blog.

I met Linda VanWyk a few years ago, when we both exhibited at the Arts on the Credit art fair. I had the pleasure of having the booth beside hers, so when we had lulls in traffic we could chat and brows through each other’s work. I LOVED her collages. Both her representational and abstract work blew me away. Anyway… I’ll let her tell you herself about what she does.

Written by Guest artist, Linda VanWyk:

I am thrilled that Marianne has asked me to be a guest blogger this month. My name is Linda VanWyk and I am a collage artist. You can see my work at http://www.lindavanwyk.com

In my post today, I am going to talk about making and using your own collage paper. Often I find making collage paper to be the most creative thing I do. It’s a way for me to express my joy of color, pattern and mark making with no restrictions, rules or limitations. The collage paper is made with no end product in sight.

While many artists use ‘found ‘ papers in their collage works, I only use papers that I have painted myself. Even though this is important to me, it is by no means the only option available to you.

If you look at my acrylic / collage paintings, you will see hundreds of different pieces of painted paper that are combined to create my compositions. Each piece might have a different texture, color combination and pattern.

You can apply collage paper with acrylic fluid and/or gel medium to various supports including w/c paper, stone paper, Mylar, stretched canvas and panels.

I have recently started combining my collage paper with oil paint and cold wax on oil paper and panels. While the first layer can be applied with acrylic mediums, once you start using oil paint subsequent collage pieces need to be applied with cold wax.

Here are some tips for painting your own collage paper:

  • Have fun! This is just an exercise.
  • Paper – large sheets of bond paper, Japanese papers, deli paper and acid free tissue paper
  • Paint – acrylic paints (fluid and tube), acrylic inks, plan to mix various color combinations – while you are waiting for one piece to dry, start another
  • Other mark making tools – charcoal sticks, oil pastels, coloured pencils, watercolour pencils
  • Patterns – draw directly on to the painted paper, use various stencils while painting, stamp the paper with homemade or purchased stamps, make marks into wet paint using various tools (paint brushes, spatulas, other household objects)

All of your collage painted paper has a way of accumulating. If you are thinking of using them on a regular basis, you might want to think about how you can store them so that you can easily retrieve the perfect colour and/or pattern when you need it.

 Here are a couple of options for storage:

Small and large pieces can be stored in drawers but I often find that I don’t readily see all of the pieces. If I am using storage drawers I tend to set up each drawer by color.

Alternatively I hang paper via hangers and clips. I can easily and quickly look at each piece and choose what I need.

Photo of studio of artist Linda VanWyck

One way to sort your collage papers to make them easily accessible.

Happy Painting!

You can reach me at  linda@lindavanwyk.com

Upcoming Events:

Buh-bye 2016. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Abstract painting in earthy green-grey and aqua

“Weight of the World”, Acrylic on Canvas. Available.

Hello 2017!! I am SO ready for 2016 to be over. I know a lot of people have had a pretty great year, but I can’t say the same for me. Illness and loss, strange unpleasant things going on at work, overall state of the world getting to me. I’m ready for a change. And change is starting now.

I can’t believe it’s happening, but I’m leaving for Portugal day after tomorrow! Getting to go on this trip is something I am extremely grateful for. I’m excited and terrified all at once. I’m leaving other people to look after my responsibilities. Something I never do. My husband and son are going to have to look after themselves. Cook for themselves. Clean up after themselves. People at my day job are going to have to do my work while I’m away. I know these people are adults and are perfectly capable, but relinquishing control has always been a little difficult for me. But I think I can manage.

The last couple weeks I’ve been running around like a maniac. So many little things to look after before I go. Trying to figure out what tools I should bring and what I can buy there. Do I need a cellphone plan? (I think so). Can I manage to post to my blog without taking my laptop? (no). Should I bring my big, bulky camera or just use my phone for pictures? (still undecided).  It’s been so long since I’ve travelled I just don’t know… but I know I have to resist the urge to pack everything. One thing I remember about travel is that dragging around a heavy bag is not fun. A small suitcase on wheels and a backpack is it, and if it doesn’t fit it doesn’t come with me.

It’s helpful to know there is an art supply store in Albufeira, about a 20 minute walk from the villa where I am staying. I should be able to get pretty much anything I need. I can do most of my prep work with a pen and a sketchbook. A few big brushes have to come with me because they’re expensive and I don’t want to buy them again. I’ll have access to laundry facilities, so clothes can be minimal. My host has been incredibly helpful with lots of information. I know it will be easier than it was when I was last in Europe (over 20 years ago… wow. when the hell did I get that old?!), when I had to struggle with international operators to call my mom (this was pre-email, folks, but moms don’t change. You still had to check in), and had to carry around traveller’s cheques which I often had trouble cashing. And my camera used FILM! Imagine! It took me months to get all my pictures back because I couldn’t afford to get all 12 rolls developed and printed at the same time. I know this will be a different experience altogether. I am older and wiser. And I have a credit card. That makes all kinds of things easier.

So overall, I’m looking forward to 2017 and all the new experiences it will bring. I can’t remember the last time a new year started with such promise. It’s a good sign. Ok… so now I have to go finish packing….

Fixing a screw up…

Abstract painting in sunshine yellow, turquoise and violet

“With Apologies” 9×9″ Mixed Media on paper. Private Collection.

This week I got an email from a client informing me that a painting I had shipped out to her had arrived…. damaged. Crap. A week before Christmas, and it had been purchased for a gift. It was obvious to me that I had screwed up… I didn’t pack it well enough to survive the trip from Ontario to BC. I could make a bunch of excuses. I’ve been busy, preoccupied with the chaos at work, getting ready for Christmas, dealing with issues at work and home. Beside the point. I knew this wouldn’t have happened if I had just been more careful. What an awful feeling.

Carelessness isn’t in my DNA. I’m the artist that is the last to leave a show, carefully wrapping all my paintings in bubble wrap so they won’t get damaged in the car. I’m good at my day job because of an OCD level of attention to detail. I contacted my client and asked how I could make this right? I offered a refund, or I could paint her something similar and get it in the mail within the next couple days. She opted for the replacement piece…. so with just 6 days until Christmas eve, I was in my studio painting.

Abstract painting in sunshine yellow, turquoise and violet

“Second Thought” 9×9″ Mixed Media on paper. Available.

I painted two, just in case one of them was a failure. I knew I couldn’t duplicate the original. That piece was done last summer and I was in a totally different state of mind. But I could use the same colours, composition, the same basic shapes and get close. Actually, I think they both turned out better than the original. I’ve learned since then. All the work I’ve done on composition and value since this summer has given me tools to improve on my original image. I sent photos off to my client, and constructed a package that hopefully can survive the trip. Once she made a decision off it went, expedited of course, and hopefully arrived in time. Fingers crossed.

 

Abstract Painting: Crimson River

abstract painting in crimson and earth tones

“Crimson River”, 11×15″ Acrylic on Paper. Available.

It’s been a difficult week. My puppy had a relapse of her vestibular thing, but this time, instead of getting better, it got progressively worse. We were thinking she’d come out of it, but instead it became painfully obvious that there was something more serious going on. The vet didn’t really give us much hope, so we had to make the painful decision to end her suffering. And suffering she most definitely was.

I’m not really feeling much motivation to do anything but lie in front of the TV in the fetal position, but I know if I just go and do something eventually I will feel better. I gave myself a week to wallow, but any longer and I risk sinking into a depression. Can’t have that, especially on the brink of winter. So I got off my ass. I got to the gym for the first time since I started having trouble breathing… it wasn’t exactly the workout I’ve been doing for the past 15 years, but I managed about a half hour of exercise without a coughing fit. I worked in my art journal a bit. And I did a bit of painting.

Painting is like meditation to me. It’s the only time during the day when I am completely in the moment. I don’t have that when I’m drawing. Drawing is much more of a thinking thing for me. When I’m painting an abstract it is just paint, colour, shapes… the world falls away. I think the only way I’m going to keep myself sane is to take the time to go into my studio and work, even if what I create is complete and total crap. So much for taking a break. It doesn’t seem to be helping. I guess I better just get back to work.

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