What a difference a day makes to a cat: October 28
Setting this cat in a bunch of neighborhoods is NOT like setting a cat among the pigeons. He is there to remind us all that we all look better, perform better, laugh more, and do our best work when we are surrounded by those from whom we can learn, which is a corollary of “every piece looks better because of the pieces that surround it.”
I finished the pencil drawing on October 28, covered it with Liquitex Clear Gesso, and started to paint on October 29.
The Neighborhood Cat is on a 16×20 stretched canvas. His face, yet to be determined/designed, makes him part of the Clowder of Cats. “Clowder,” as you may know, is the collective noun for “cat.”
As you might imagine, Max-the-Cat — model, muse and snacks manager — is the Model for the entire Clowder. Some of the original clowder paintings are for sale. All are available as prints ($25) or cards-with-envelopes ($4 each). Contact email@example.com. Billed through PayPal.
Max-the-Cat commissioned a new portrait to commemorate his most recent achievement. He is now a Brown Velvet Belt Feline Hypnotist Extraordinaire. His penetrating gaze creates an unbreakable bond between cat-and-human, cat-and-other-cat, cat-and-insect, and cat-and-vacuum cleaner. He bends everything to his will, which serves him in the Hierarchy of Interests: Food, Most Comfortable Seat, Food, and Silence.
Using Olympic-level concentration, Max’s training regime included hours of focused staring, with eyes fixed on a tiny speck of dust. He applied astonishing attention, gazing at individual leaves on a now-bare tree. Did his constant attention cause the leaves to fall? That’s someone’s dissertation.
Perfecting the Ritual of Insistence
He applied his vision, perfecting the “Ritual of Insistence,” in which a cat sits on a sleeping human’s stomach, with his or her head as close as possible to the human’s face. Deep gazing (and sometimes other activities) compel the human to get out of bed and feed the cat. Inexperienced cats use kneading, slapping, nose-nipping, and projectile vomiting to wake the human. The Brown Velvet Belt Feline Hypnotist Extraordinaire uses the power of the mind.
Brown Velvet Level
Among those who care about these things, there was some consternation about naming the top-level belted Feline Hypnotist “Brown” instead of “blue” for “Blue Ribbon” or “Black” for “Black Belt.” The truth is that the organizers and perpetuators of this competition also own a fabric store. Some years ago someone made an astonishingly large incorrect order of non-returnable brown velvet. They have donated yards of it to theater companies for velvet tree trunks, supported brown velvet bunny artists, and they continue to look for new uses for this beautiful fabric.
How the portrait was made
Max posed. Susan Gainen photographed with her IPhone and transferred the photo to her desktop and into Photoshop. With some adjustments, including cutting his image from the background and adding a sponge layer, Max emerged triumphant.
You can make monoprinting into a fabulously complex and expensive proposition requiring Huge Presses and exotic equipment. On the other hand, because monoprinting is the application of paint (or other mediums) pressed (or rolled or hammered) onto paper (or other welcoming surface) to make a unique design, it can be done on your kitchen table. Monoprinting is the ultimate free-wheeling art form.
Before you begin, you can do a lot of research (monoprints.com), ask Dr. Google for information about materials you need (craftsy.com), talk to a friendly art store employee or find a bunch of You-tube videos. (238,000 hits in under 6 seconds).
Call your friends. You can monoprint together and make beautiful images.
Abstract 11 makes monoprint magic in Photoshop
Abstract 11 combines my very first monoprint with the magic of Photoshop.
Since 2006, I have celebrated connections within the tiny spaces in paintings called nanoscapes. My friends and fans have been after me for years to make coloring books, and as with so many things, I’ve realized that resistance is futile. Now all I need is a printer who can create a book at a price that my pals can afford. Suggestions? Use the contact form at the end of this post.
Celebrating connections with painstaking exuberance
Almost by accident, I created a consistent body of abstract work that reflects my interest in connections among and between people, their neighborhoods, and their cities: true nanoscapes. I use painstaking exuberance, a four or five-step process, to make each one. I begin with a pencil drawing, continue with a Davy’s Gray watercolor outline, then paint between the lines, and outline each shape with paint or Micron pen. Sometimes the fifth step includes a paint or ink outline of the complete piece. I love and celebrate every single step.
My earliest watercolor paintings were all about tiny spaces, complex designs, and bright colors, and were reflected in the business name: nanoscapes & other visions llc. The first paintings (8×10 inches or smaller) were shown at the now-closed Rosalie Wahl Library in Stillwater. It was a very tiny library, and the very tiny nanoscapes looked great on the walls.
Some of you know the story. No sooner than I had acquired the business name, and other pieces of a corporate entity, than one of my pals said “Honey, I love your work, but I can’t put a postcard behind my sofa.” Although they maintained their tiny designs in small spaces, the nanoscapes got bigger (16×20, 22×33). In 2009, whimsical creatures arrived and took over the studio, and integrated some nanoscapes’ designs into their bodies. I am returning happily to true nanoscapes, and most of the coloring (or painting) pages are inspired by paintings I’ve done or plan to do soon.
Pages coming in tandem with the First Unitarian Society “Connections” show
On December 30, 2015, I will hang a show that is focused on “Connections” at the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis‘ elegant space on Mt. Curve. It is an honor to be there, and I am inspired to collect and showcase paintings from the underlying and unifying theme of so much of my work: connections. The show will be a combination of old and new connections-themed pieces with a handful of creature paintings that incorporate abstract images and link my old, new, and forthcoming work.
Some samples as work-in-progress:
I hope to see you at the show. Watch this space, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms for information about the show’s reception. Also, I promise to create a genuine artist newsletter in 2016.
As bad news flows from one neighborhood to another across the country and around the world, I can’t help but want to brighten up the landscape. Two paintings that might be city maps share my living room studio space this week. Technically, each will explore squares and rectangles with watercolor and acrylic in both color and texture. Are they images of neighborhoods? Are they maps? Are they aerial views of bright cities? I can’t decide.
These might also be an homage to tile. I love tiles. All kinds of tile. My favorite bathrooms had intricate black-and-white floor tiles, and beautiful art-tiles in the showers and in kitchens. If I lived in an architecturally appropriate space, I would have a Turkish Tile Extravaganza, and a lot of work by Josh Blanc of Clay Squared to Infinity. I can’t imagine a less tile-friendly space than the one in which I live, so real tile will remain an extravagant daydream.
Back to reality.
For me, creating images like these in actual tile is a non-starter. When I turned 60, I decided to give up activities requiring safety equipment, which specifically included cutting tile and bungee jumping. I’ve left the door open for ballooning and sky-diving adventures, but that’s because every rule has to have an exception.
I suppose that I could use pre-cut tile to make some art, but the tiny shapes that I can draw and then paint make sense to me.
A neighborhood map & coloring-book-map-making project
This larger map has a slightly more dramatic form — with movement within the shapes. (Neighborhood Map #3, 22×33; work in progress.) I will get a digital shot of it before I start to paint so that I can create a coloring-book-map-making project.
Late last night, while binging on Death in Paradise (thank you Netflix), I pulled out my double zero brush and began to fill in the boxes.
See this piece (finished or not)
Connections #7 is part of a series of paintings which began as a doodle during conference calls where a group of us strategized about how our dear friend and wonderful judge might be connected to the decision-maker who might appoint her to a difference judgeship. Her constituents are lucky to have her. I am lucky to have made an image that shows everyone and everything is connected.
In 1996, a now-shuttered lumber yard in Saint Paul cut the flamingo from a piece of plywood, made a dozen sets of bookends, a random kidney-ish shaped piece, and 24 8-inch rounds. I painted and beaded the flamingo, and the rounds have aged like fine wine in a stack under my stairs.
It is now a pink gesso-covered Cave Flamingo which was part of my Lost Cave Paintings of Saint Paul installation at the WARM (Women’s Art Resources of Minnesota) Mentor-Protegee final show, Beyond the Surface, in late 2014.
New life for the wooden rounds
Two years ago I bought a dozen 12-inch round sheets of a fine artist paper whose brand is lost in the mists of time. They sat comfortably in the package until I decided to use gesso, the key ingredient in Cave Paintings, to attach the round papers to the wooden rounds.
Wooden rounds meet tiny Flamingos
How this piece was made:
I used gesso to attach the paper to the wooden round, and trimmed the excess.
With a spatula, I splodged gesso onto the paper, and then pressed it with the Ax-Man Gizmo #2, a tube with wire mesh that makes a scaly-sort of pattern. I let it dry overnight.
I sponged color onto the now-patterned gesso. I recommend acrylic paint (as opposed to watercolor), which won’t move an inch when you cover it with acrylic medium. I learned this lesson the very very hard way (subject of another post when I’m over my disappointment.)
Having made dozens of tiny flamingos as ornaments, bookmarks, and gift tags, I am surrounded by them. Three volunteered to be encased on gloss varnish for this project. I glued them onto the round, and waited patiently while the glue dried. (Really? Why are you telling me this? Because I have a life-long history of being too quick to move on to the next step, and I want to save you from the abject misery that will follow a string of bad words.)
Inspired by Dar Bunde, an amazing artist-member of the Northstar Watermedia Society, I used Liquitex Gloss Medium because I want this piece to be SHINY!!!!! I poured it on and set to to dry overnight.
I painted the sides with acrylic paint and covered the sides with gloss medium
I attached a hanger on the back so that this can hang on the wall.
Step 1: When working out a new design, start small.
Taking a break from painting creatures, I have returned to nanoscapes (tiny geometric abstracts). For the last week or so, I’ve been making paintings that mimic painted knitted metal. Inspired by the supremely talented Carolyn Halliday and Karen Searle whose manipulation of non-traditional materials for textiles is always exciting, challenging, and beautiful, I’ve begun to see connections between and among tiny lines and spaces. In these painted knitted metal designs, I’ve found a space for a new pattern that links all of us together.
Each of these paintings is smaller than 8×8 inches. After one finished work and two works-in-progress, I am moving closer to starting a large (22×33) piece.
Step 2. Think about all of the spaces.
What about the tiny spaces to be painted? Should there be white spaces inside and around the piece. Should the design cover the paper? What about color? My first instinct is always LOTS of colors, but what about all blue or all green or other color families?
My newest family of paintings comes under the umbrella of “Friendship: Complicated. Sometimes messy. Beautiful if you’re lucky.” I made the first one in late April 2014, and I’ve been working on large and small ones (in between working on the WARM Project Lost Cave Paintings) ever since.
Some who have looked at this work have suggested that it might be brains or kidneys or traffic jams or swarms of bees. I prefer “Friendship. Complicated. Sometimes Messy…
Friendship…#5 made the first cut in the Minnesota State Fair Fine Arts Competition, but it wasn’t juried into the final show.
Consolation and a gift
Friendship #5 and some smaller pieces (above) were beautifully and artfully hung by Jack Mader at the Vine Arts Center’s Get Behind the Work #2 show.
Even in the short time that I’ve worked in this mode, the paintings have changed. While each band is a completed connection, in the earliest paintings, each was thin and squiggly. More recent paintings have large, exuberant bands that go around and across the pieces. I have no idea what that means.These random bands reminded me instantly of friendship, which is complicated, sometimes messy, and, if you are lucky, quite beautiful. Wags among my pals made alternative suggestions (brains, kidneys, worms, the inside of a junk drawer). I prefer friendship.
Using my trust double-zero brushes, I paint each band, watching carefully for the over-and-under so that the bands link together. Every band is linked to at least one other. Those are the connection of friendship.How do I begin? As always, with a General GH pencil with a very sharp point. I draw the first line, and then go back and make it into a band with a line that is sometimes parallel, and sometimes wavy to give the band a sense of movement. I add line-after-line and band-after-band until the piece is dense enough to suit my mood.