One visitor to my studio remarked (or was it a complaint?) that I have “too many ideas” — I should stick to one idea and develop it. I got the same advice (or complaint) in art school. One of my art professors was a painter of directional signs. His work was shown in one of NYC’s best galleries. I recently looked him up online to see if, forty years later, he was still painting directional signs. Yes! There they were, painting after painting of arrows. Arrows pointing up, pointing crossways, pointing down, etc. So, he had a brand — to borrow from corporate marketing — easily identifiable, uniquely his. And me? Do I have a brand?
Me? I start from the inside. I focus on whatever’s bothering me. Or what intrigues me. The past year, for example, I was faced with an upcoming court date and constant, nightmarish anxiety. How to alleviate my anxiety? I was tempted to throw paint against the canvas – expressionism!
Instead, I discovered a simple therapy: I focused on details, tiny intricate shapes, dots, triangles, stripes, using my trusty ink pens and fluid acrylics and acrylic markers and occasional watercolor pencils. Will I go on “developing” my “patterned” paintings? Probably not.
Studio location: A garage (without the car!) semi-attached to my house. The only natural light is west, which makes for interesting shadows, ideal for my purposes.
How long working here? I moved in early August this year, so the studio hasn’t been mucked up much. I’m still trying to keep it clean and neat. Give it a few months.
One advantage: I can paint large, larger, largest and cart the canvas out the garage door. Of course, having a new studio feels like a fresh start. I finally have more floor space—my method is to work on the floor, kneeling.
And I have wall space: that’s amazing! The first thing I did when I moved into the new studio, I hung up about 30 of my paintings, it was like seeing them for the first time.
Challenges: Electricity? Yes. But no plumbing: no sink, no toilet. So I do a lot of trudging back and forth.
I tend to work on several paintings at once and revisit old paintings accordingly. And especially now with the fresh new context of the studio, I see everything differently. I’m thinking I want to go toward interior scenes. Figures, of course. But I haven’t done much with objects, and I plan to.
Ross King’s The Judgment of Paris. Immensely detailed, with a sweeping perspective on what King calls “the revolutionary decade that gave the world Impressionism.” King’s starting point is Meissonier, the Andy Warhol of the 19th century (and coincidentally Salvador Dali’s favorite painter). A brilliant illustration of the relativity of the canon.
Another seminal book: Lothar Lang’s Expressionist Book Illustration in Germany, 1907-1927. I’ve pored over that book for years—the drama of the line, the black/ white contrast, the spare use of color as “gesture,” an art of protest. Raw and brutal stuff; those paintings can’t be tamed. The basics for me are content and drama.
And the inimitable Lucy Lippard, the art shaman. I don’t necessarily like the art she likes, but I love looking at art through her eyes. I See/ You Mean is a phenomenal novel.