Week One: Getting There Part 1

Last week walking into the studio was my greatest accomplishment.  This week I exploded into my paints and canvas.  After a conversation with Mary Ann Wakeley on Monday, I set up my tasks for the week:
  • Set Up Studio so I Don’t Have to Clean Up
  • Get Music
  • Start Introducing Myself with Business Cards “Nancy Polo, Artist”
  • Play with color on whatever I get my hands on
  • Etsy?

Tuesday brought my first opportunity to march right in and get to work after a brief clean and set up on Monday night.  My trouble is filtering out a stream of impulses and ideas that rarely make it to the page, but I set to work with no real plan.  The first effort was rough.  Chalk Pastel on paper.  Much as I’d like to believe that dust and mess don’t bother me, they just plain do.  I grabbed a set of pastels I had purchased long ago to do a portrait of my nephew and a piece of raw sienna paper from a painting class in 1998.  “Just put the color down.” So I did, and this is what I got after playing with it for about 30 minutes.  I used my fingers, my fingers in gardening gloves, a brush with some acrylic paint (when I could not get the depth I wanted), and a rubber tipped shaper.  Having not received the books on my class reading list yet, I was itching to figure out where I stood with what I had just made.  The title: Acqua, Piume e Finestra (Water, Feathers and Window).  Vaguely reminiscent of my obsession with Venice and Carnival.  The result was well received on flickr by contacts who don’t normally comment, which should lead to me believe it is successful.  I have my doubts.

Next I grabbed my palette with left-over paint from my last project Still not Emma Grace. I duct taped a piece of canvas sheet onto a board.  With a vague idea of driving through the apple orchard on a sunny day, and a memory of a photograph borrowed from my friend Patrice on facebook, I laid down the colors: sienna, white, cerulean blue, portrait pink, light orchid, dioxin purple, sea green, umber, ochre and some payne’s gray (perhaps some parchment and naples yellow).  Happily my memory did not cloud the process too much.  While listening to Pandora station based on Bobby Darin, I danced across the canvas sheet.  I was overwhelmed to see what appeared.  Driving during the Spring and early Fall can be dangerous for me.  The light plays with everything and I see the most gorgeous landscapes, but I can’t stop along the highway to capture it all.  It never seems to be as good when I stop.  The motion of driving and ever shifting horizons is what I am after.  Trying to get it has almost gotten me into several car accidents.  Listening to music while hopped up on my thermos of green tea chai (another necessity in the studio), I could almost enact the feeling of driving through the landscape in an explosion of color.  With my trusty phone camera I captured my work and set about transforming it almost immediately.  I was avoiding attachment. I had not gone far enough into the process to merit calling it DONE. Really?

Next came the search to really recreate in paint a specific day in the orchard.  As a crutch (on the right side of the canvas) I used the idea of an old sycamore discovered on a walk with David and his kids.  He showed me how it was hollow.  Squirrels live inside these hollow trees, coming in and out of small holes in a rodent shutes and ladders.  In my mythology of iconic landscape components, these dinosaur sycamores play over and over again.  It served as an excellent support to the mental process conjuring itself in my head and on the canvas.  What I was really after was still so illusive and somewhere on the left side of the canvas.  Imagine two old apple trees in a staggered arch above your car as you are driving on a dirt road through an autumn morning.  The trees were hugging me in my vehicle with the sun.  Yes, somehow I want and need to paint something so impossible.  At the end of an hour or two of work this materialized.  Linus was on his way home and I had to meet him at the B&B where he gets dropped off.  Take a break and let it dry some.

Wednesday afternoon in the the studio brought more progress, but I was less absorbed by my memories.  The canvas had taken hold of me and it was no longer a conversation with my memory.  It was now a push and pull of left and right.  The left side harbored some strange middle creature of hunter green and tree.  The right side was a pronounced real tree with roots growing across the horizon.  Playing with some smaller brushes I began breaking up the plain into successively smaller, receding plains.  The orchid was vying for space with the fake sea green that belonged somewhere in a painting of palm trees in Florida.  Yellow ochre and sienna (raw and burnt) happily toned down the competing colors.  I continued to play and listen to Rat Pack music.  It was heaven.  Every now and then I felt Bob Ross creeping into the process and he was quickly shut out by adding more of this or that in a very messy way.  How deliciously unlike me.  The only unresolved part was hunter green asking for shape with some electric yellow green and dioxin purple.  What was happening on the left side?  Was it a cloud, a storm or some leaves thousands of feet away moving in?  I solved the problem with purple haze and iridescent gel contrasted with clouds in the middle of the sky for balance in the composition.

The afternoon was broken up again by Linus coming home.  Somehow he knew that Mamma wanted to be in the studio, so he stayed with me after Auntie Bet dropped him off.  We played, we listened to music (some India Arie playlist mixed in with indulgent 80’s dance tunes).  He loved it.  He even painted a bit by himself.  I was happy to see my critter working with paint as I abandoned myself to the canvas.  When he was done, he wandered into the sandbox in front of the studio.  I should have worried about his ruined khaki’s, but I painted instead.  After Orage was done, I ripped off the duct tape and grabbed another piece of canvas sheet that was re-taped to the board with the same tape.

What now?  No idea. With no memories or visions to guide me, I emptied the contents of my palette onto the canvas.  Here’s what happened.  It was originally a vertical piece with some unfortunate combination of browns and hunter green toward the bottom.  In an attempt to fix the mud, blue was added on top and in the middle.  I had no idea what would become of the sea green and mustard ochre that invaded the upper right.  The palette was almost completely clean.  Only some white and parchment lingered.  What do I do?  I smeared it on in the center with my fingers.  Complete failure.  Unresolved and looking like nothing.  I decided to go home with my critter and eat dinner.

As I type this out on a busy Friday, I am 10 minutes late getting to the commercial kitchen to make Mrs. Ratszenberger’s Short Rib soup: a trial run for Smith Meadows Cooking Classes and some for the farmers market.  More on painting to come later…

Leave a Reply