Friday, April 16, 2010

April and all the Hoopla

April 2010 Spring is in the air……

The river is resting after ravaging the banks earlier in the year, the gates are closed and there is very little current. It is spring for sure the fish are jumping and rolling in the caramel water, in their spring rituals of replication. We took our first voyage of the year last weekend and hope to go out again this weekend. We survey the changes the river has made over the winter and quite often just ride in silence wrapped in the deafening blanket of nature. I do most of my deep thinking when we go out on the water, there must be something to the saying "Still waters run deep", but quite frankly rivers run deep as well.

Farmers are planting crops with reckless abandon, I am confident that most if not all farmers are in it just to create new life in the fields. The intoxication of the smell of life and rich brown promising soil drives them to return to this every spring, until they can either no longer physically or emotionally wrap their lives around it. There is something to be said for persistence, it is the force that moves us to challenge ourselves to search beyond struggle, it is the mentor of endurance, and I for one believe it is a force that everyone faces daily.

In the studio I am working on paper again. I am reminded that life is uncertain and brief and that life comes full circle and in stages that are predictable but not without pain. I face the fact that my dog, Rocko, is growing old and has many frailties that crush me every day with their incapacity in his life. I am certain our time is not long together so he continues to be a pivotal theme in my work. It is not just him, but the companionship that we share, and the actual need we have for each other. The piece today shows my vulnerability and the fact that not every stroke is one of artistic bliss. I would like to show how often it is a freeing and very growth inducing lesson to breathe life into a painting that for one reason or another falls short of what you expected.

The original painting is on paper, and for the most part is a disaster in my eyes. I had originally thought of using two figures connected and having them interact with animals, in particular dogs. I feel this painting fails on many levels and it very much like running through church naked to post this for me, but I think we all learn by our mistakes so here goes…

I am disappointed on many levels. There is no emotion in this piece there is nothing happening between the shapes to makes the piece feel dynamic. It is mute in its ability to speak to anyone, short of the dog shape referring to Rocko, it is emotionally bereft of feelings. The design is lacking miserably as well, so this is not what I wanted. To show how really cruel I can be to myself, I am posting the black and white jpeg, which without color shows even more clearly the blankness of this piece.

The paper is not expensive, probably four or five dollars, but the little monkey that periodically appears in my head keeps poking and prodding my brain forcing me to not give up. I could more easily start on a new piece but something is urging me to experiment with the mediums and perhaps teach myself something technically as well in the process of resurrecting this painting. So here we go…I just love a good adventure…

Large brush in hand, actually a chip brush , the cheapest you can buy,I dip into the gesso and begin to see a heartbeat thump on my paper, life is returning here. I am feeling better with every stroke. There are parts that are completely obliterated and covered with the blanket of thick snow white gesso. I am feeling the comforting promise of a new beginning with the first stroke. There is a mingling of colors being picked up in the previous layers of watercolor and gouache creating new textures and colors with the gesso. The gesso is acrylic based and as the watercolor mixes with the gesso it creates a toned gesso surface. My paper is now taking on a leathery new texture, I am thinking the gesso will be somewhat absorbent but also will only allow any application of watercolor to lie on the surface giving me the option of lifting any color I am not satisfied with up to another value or completely off. This is good, and gives me even more options. I end up with almost a blurred deep in the fog looking painting that is interesting in itself but I am sure I can make this work so I will venture to another level. I feel somewhat vindicated at this point, and go to bed thinking of new ways to apply paint to this new and engaging surface.

Okay no bed yet, I am unable to sleep until I change a few things. I am starting to change the design a bit; I added another dog and some lines have moved. I am still not sure about the figures, they bother me but I will tend to that in the morning. I have a gallon of gesso if I need to change the figures I can do it tomorrow.

Morning comes and I am walking into the studio and seeing the painting with fresh eyes, caffeinated by 3 cups of coffee and ready to paint. I am still not happy with the figures, they do not make the statement I am after with this piece, so I gesso one of them completely out of the space. I have to wait for the gesso to dry, and while I am waiting, I do a few value studies to play with the design. I am thinking about the painting and the concept behind the piece. I feel closer to it now that it has one figure as that would feel more personal. I am trying to show the relationship of a figure to another figure or figures and this time it is animals, in particular dogs. When I think of dogs the words that come to mind are loyal, faithful, companionship, playful, watchful, guardians etc

I am posting the black and whites as well as the color jpegs to show the values and how they are working or not working. Well, the dog shapes are fun and seem to be leading the eye pretty well back to the figure but the figure is a stick in the mud. It actually kills the piece with the stoic vertical stiff look, this has to be rectified. I can say the colors are nice but the value is too heavy on one side. The options are one to heavy up the value somewhere on the opposite side to give a balance or two I can change the values totally again. I am in this for change so since the entire figure has to change; while I am changing, I will create a new value pattern. I am hoping to give the figure a way to connect physically and mentally with the dog shapes to show the connection I am trying to evoke from this painting. I am thinking this could be nice bird cage liner at this point but the little monkey is working overtime and prodding me to keep trying. I have a plan for the figure and will put it into action. Here we go…

Well I gave my figure some life and extended the upper dog leg shape down to connect to the figure. Now I have my eye moving in a circle shape which reinforces my theme for the piece. The hoops will be another way to give the circle shape to the piece. I will repeat the hoops three times, as odd numbers are always more interesting and in my mind I am thinking that the dog shapes each have a hoop and the figure has a hoop, this makes sense to me,as we all seem to jump through hoops to please each other. I am pleased with the turn of events here and seeing a definite rhythm going now. The design now is pleasing to my eye and works to relate my message, I can ask no more from a design standpoint in this piece, and to think I was going to make this a bird cage carpet just a few steps back. Perseverance is the key to most things in life and art, giving up is easy but I have learned volumes from my mistakes in this piece. After a few more hours of pondering strokes and application of paint and working through my thoughts on color and cohesiveness in color I finish the painting. I may never show it or sell it but it is invaluable for the lessons it taught me in the process. Here is the final painting. It feels right to me now and I believe it works, or at the very least it expresses the emotional feeling I was after and I saved the paper!

I hope you might have learned something from my mistakes and enjoyed muddling through the process with me. I am grateful to you for reading. Take care and have a great month!

Cathy Hegman

All artwork and text included in this blog is copyright protected by Cathy Hegman and should not be reproduced in any form or fashion or used without the written permission of Cathy Hegman. All text and artwork included in this blog are solely the thoughts and original art of the artist, Cathy Hegman, unless otherwise noted, and are meant only to be guidelines and thoughts for others to blog.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Emergence: Silencing the Stigmas

The Big Sunflower River running by my house.

The river rises and falls in twists and turns. The river decided to take three of my large trees and huge chunks of my bank when it fell this time. I now have a much more open vista but a mournful feeling for my trees which are languishing and bobbing in the murky deep water off the bank, now a new home to the water dwellers. It is the unknown power of the water and the unpredictable way it marks its course over the earth that makes me fearful. I can only watch and wonder and hope it is abated for now.

In the studio,the paint flows. I decided long ago, much like the river, to never be stagnant in my art. I like to work in watercolor and goauche for awhile and then move to oil and acrylic, I have now added to the mix; working in encasutics (beeswax, damar resin and oil). I believe this keeps me current and on my toes, honing my abilities to work in many mediums. The use of different mediums and surfaces feeds the need I have for finding myriads of ways of creating texture in my work. I can remember years ago at one of the first workshops I ever attended, Alex Powers, it was then he told me that I should find what intrigues me in my art and follow that muse. I did not have to think long about it at all, as it has and always will be texture. In watercolor I use a visual texture made by manipulating the paint to give the appearance of texture, while in oil, acrylic and encaustic it is a physical surface texture achieved with each of these mediums. I have found that I have no preference as long as it reads as texture and it is interesting. My love of textures has always been there as I have always loved antiques and the patinas that have given them their beauty from age and I find a comfort in these things. Perhaps the comfort is from the knowledge of time and history or maybe just the mystery of texture, the what caused it the how was it made, the how did it survive this long, it is limitless if you think about it. My painting in this blog uses visual texture.

Emergence: Silencing the Stigma by
watercolor on paper

Step one
Thought process:
In my latest painting titled Emergence: Silencing the Stigma, I am working through the coming of age and the living through and with the whole little fruit incidence in the Bible and the underlying feeling that women are still stigmatized in the world, and perhaps the reason is deeply rooted in our history. Why do women earn less than men? Why is gender given so much importance? Simply put, I believe deeply that gender should have no bearing on a person's worth. It is the soul of a human that transcends and gives meaning to every human and we are all created equally and here for a purpose.

Step Two
How do I put this into a painting?
I break it down into the feelings I have about this issue, simply put I feel like society has placed boundaries in the form of barriers that we must push against until we break them down. So I began this piece with my figure struggling and pushing the walls or boundaries. I painted the stigmas of the serpent and the female forms with apples on their heads as targets under the water , to give the thought that perhaps we are emerging from this pattern one day. I purposefully made one boundary line as barbed wire loosely referencing Christ's crown of thorns,and on the other side are the pearls of wisdom from God,the hope that I believe we all strive for in life.

Step Three
Choosing the color palette and shape of the paper.

I chose square as the shape of my paper as it has a calming feel to it, this struggle is not fast and furious it is slow and steady sure. In this case I chose a cool palette with soft hues. The only warmth in the piece is in the main figure, to give a greater presence to the figure and to secure it as a focal point. I also placed the lightest light around my figure shape to bring attention to it. The dark bottom of the painting is to signify deep water and deep thoughts and emotions. This dark shape grounds the lighter softer tones in the painting. The bars that the snake is wrapped around serve to tie the light with the darker hues of the painting. I made the waterline as two different levels on the figure to keep some interest in shapes and their sizes.

Step Four
Am I finished?...
I think I will move on from this painting but this subject will be revisited again, perhaps in a different medium. Until then I hope everyone has a great month and enjoys the wonders of Spring! Have a blessed Easter!

Cathy Hegman


All artwork and text included in this blog is copyright protected by Cathy Hegman and should not be reproduced in any form or fashion or used without the written permission f Cathy Hegman. All text and artwork included in this blog are solely the thoughts and original art of the artist, Cathy Hegman, unless otherwise noted , and are meant only to be guidelines and thoughts for others to read.