Dusting off the cobwebs

Oh, wow, I have a blog. I forgot. My pitiful excuse for such blatant blog-neglect is sleep deprivation  (see way way below).

To fill in the gaps since the last post: sleep-deprived-night followed by raucous baby-and-toddler filled day, set on loop, irregardless of date or circumstance. Insert some sanity and/or creativity in there somewhere, ...please.

Once again, through the tireless assistance of my husband (while on his vacation, poor thing) and my mother (who could also use some time in the studio) I've been able to squeeze in a few hours here and there to complete another portrait commission for a Helsinki University professor (which will be revealed later in October) and gradually develop a handful of figurative works. And I mean gradually. When my husband comes into the studio to peek at the day's progress, after I've proudly announced to him that I "painted three hours today!", all he can do is ask, with a polite smile, what exactly is different?

While it takes me only a couple of hours to model a face or hands in oil paint, it can take me hours upon hours to paint one layer of those blobby (my new "technical" term), abstract shapes, and then I have to wait a day or two to painstakingly render the next layer. This process goes light-years faster when done in acrylic paint, but I prefer the texture, handling and surface of oil paint (and ever since those university days when I would sleep, eat and paint in the same apartment room, I love the smell of oil paint too; no, I did not use solvents in enclosed spaces). I'm attempting to fuse figurative with blobby abstraction, and I prefer to use oil with the figurative work, so that means I have to be patient...

A little patience is a good thing for studio practice, but little patients aren't.


Baby taking in the sights and sounds (and definitely smells, oil paint etc) of the studio while its mother paints away furiously - oh how bohemian! By the end of the second month the baby's curiosity sort of bloomed and I discovered that I could paint while she was awake, albeit if there's a bit of entertainment thrown in. So far she seems to smile more at the abstract paintings or the abstract blotches in the portraits... Her older brother, now a month shy of 2 years old, has learned to be wary of running into the studio, and he's now able to expend energy, like the little fireball son/sun (haha, erm) that he is, at daycare three days a week. Those are my precious (almost-)alone-in-the-studio days.

(The blue painting on the left is a portrait of my father from when he came over the pond for a long-overdue visit. The painting on the right is a portrait of a family friend in the course of his job as a large-animal veterinarian.)

Working in my (appropriated room) studio and watching the kids at home leaves me in a feedback/criticism vacuum. I take feedback from where-ever I can find it, including non-verbal kids. My own in-house, baby-as-art-critic, times two. A smile, coo, gurgle or, best of all, a hard, wide-eyed sustained stare at a painting that I'm working on is small encouragement, seeing as a 3-month old or 2-year old don't have any art history or (horror!) art criticism backgrounds. I figure that on a basic level, if the colors and compositions I create appeal to the eyes and sensibilities of children, then I've captured a bit of wonderment on canvas.

A painting doesn't have to be 'childish' to appeal to children. The substance of my paintings is not the literal subject, but the compositional interpretation in color, light and form. I want the second and third glance at a painting not because of some shocking subject matter, but because the composition is stimulating and intricate, something the viewer wants to come back to and savor. Young children respond to and are fascinated by contrasts in shape, color and number, and the adult brain will also respond to those same contrasts and intricacies  in the same fundamental way, despite years of education and socialization. Unfortunately young, non-verbal children can't tell me when a shade of red should be taken down a notch, or that the composition should be shifted 10 cm over to the left.

*humming* Back in the sa...studio again.

Non-art paraphernalia had invaded my studio space again whilst my time was otherwise occupied elsewhere... for over two months. I cracked open the doors, chased away the spiders and man-shed tools (kitchen remodel, 3-year epic), disposed of the burnable trash that was threatening to walk out the door by itself and made peace with the relocated computer desk now eating up a third of my working space. (I'm still on the lookout for any local, cheap, available studio space that doesn't include incorrigible toddlers...anyone?)

The studio isn't the only one needing a dust-up - my eyes and hands need to get back into the practice of working together. I started with charcoal sketching for two oil portraits and a self-portrait, seen above. To break up the sessions of intense staring at details (and wondering if I will need bifocals at the tender age of 32), I have also started work on a large acrylic abstraction. I didn't plan on taking such a long hiatus from the studio this summer, I had a painting schedule all planned out around both a husband-on-holiday and kitchen-remodel schedule, but it got shelved while I was sofa'd. Stuck on the sofa, generally being a nuisance with pathetic cries/moans of 'I feel nauseous!' and twiddling my thumbs, waiting to get back to work. It was for a good reason, so it was worth it. Another little artist or veterinarian in the family sometime next January.

Back in the studio again and no time to waste. I have two exhibitions coming up pretty quickly: an abstract painting invitation show at the O. Jauhiainen Museum in Kiiminki at the end of October, and a small portrait show at the Galleria Pirkko-Liisa Topelius in Helsinki in early November. I'll post some more previews of works in progress as I go along, stress increasing, deadlines approaching.