Friday, April 8, 2016

Show me how things are similar first

One of the things I try to do in classes, workshops, and private lessons, is to send out an email that sort of encapsulates the mood or feeling of what we experienced in our time together - a recap between seeing each other. Here is an excerpt from an email I sent to someone I have recently begun working with.  In this, I was trying to point to the fact that my art lessons aren't just about learning technique.  I have learned over the years that I am stressing more the importance of opening the mind to the experience of creating. What is it that makes you want to pick up a brush, a pencil, a pastel? We already possess this language in ourselves and it is beyond words for me to see someone tap into it and watch it unfold. 

So here is the excerpt and perhaps in a day or two I'll find an image to go along with this post, but maybe not. The teacher I am referring to in this message is Steven Sheehan. I had him for several classes at Lyme Academy and I count my lucky stars for that. 

"Every time I have learned something that has enhanced my ability to get closer to the work I want to be doing in my art, it has been through experiencing a shift in perspective. It is as if I am seeing things the same way, but with an extra dimension, if that make sense. A lot of times it has more to do with a philosophy or a slight shift in my mental focus on what it is that is attracting me to a certain setting. 

For instance, when I say things like “show how things are similar first before you show how they are unique”, that is something I learned from a lecture I heard about how Corot painted. One of my teachers took that approach in his own work and really instilled it in me. There was something about that expression has resonated so clearly with me. 

On a philosophical level, I think the saying speaks volumes.  How I interpreted it on a tangible level was to link all that I could together initially in my value drawing of a setting. This would not only give me a map, something to build on, but it would also show me at the very core the basic compositional element of what is to become a painting. With masking in of large shapes and linking all similar values, I can easily see if there is the kind of balance I am looking for, if the energy of the composition feels right, and above all, it helps me to ease into the experience of painting without getting overloaded with stimulus. Ultimately, all the detail and nuances will present themselves, but they will have a bedrock on which to dance."

Thank you Steven Sheehan,  Kathryn 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


Unfiltered; a Series of 8

The series Unfiltered, is a group of eight paintings where I made an agreement with myself to only paint while maintaining an open, uncensored mind. If at anytime, I began to question what was developing, or if the toxic thoughts of what "others" might say entered my consciousness, I was to step away. 

For me, there is a fine line of instinctual play and conscious choice making.  At what point does play become serious?  What happens when we don't judge?  When does applying paint spontaneously and uncensored become thoughtless and cliché? When does impulse get skewed by adhering to academic training? These are some of the questions I ask myself and gave me enough curiosity to find out...what would happen if I just got out of my way

This series deals with maintaining awareness, being present in my painting, and also agreeing to let a free stream of creativity flow. I was surprised by the playful somewhat jazzy theme that evolved. Although, in retrospect it only seems natural given the attention I have given my art over the past year. It emphasizes my desire to keep ideas fresh and unedited which paved the way for more symbols; significant to me, to percolate. The repeated quilt motif, reminiscent of a game board, or geometric aerial views, serve as a unifier. 

Each of these paintings were done using the encaustic technique of bonding layers of pigmented beeswax medium. They are 8x8 in size. 

Sidelines - I love quilts, and the quilts of Gee's Bend really captivate me more than any other. 

Crossroads - Been through a few crossroads in my life. 

Madonna - I seem to be into this motif a lot because every time I find myself  "doodling" I do a
lot of crown-like halos around circles. Sort of a Statue of Liberty reference going on, too.
Actually, I was going to title this The Madonnas, an homage to all the other mothers. 

Home and Garden - I love my home and garden, my mom's, and my grandmother's. 

The Game - Sort of surprised the Parcheesi reference didn't show up.
I played that game for hours and I believe the whole time,
 I was just enchanted with the design of the game board.  

Circus - I almost decided against hanging this series in my solo show.
They are such a departure for me.
That would have defeated the purpose of my agreement.
You see how sneaky that voice can be?
I wanted to hear what people thought
 or more importantly see how they felt when they looked at all these paintings.
It was wonderful to see people just breaking out in wide smiles.
That is what I do when I look at them. 

Cafe - I think drinking coffee in sidewalk cafes is just plane good karma. 

Gaillardia on the Boardwalk - Always an homage to the beach.
The gaillardia are always in bloom when I go to the NC beach.
I love to garden, but never have luck here in Rochester with this plant.
So, it will forever be my beach flower. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Tactile Experience

A Tactile Experience

I read years ago that we learn to see through our sense of touch. That sentence created such a profound awareness for me. Since reading that, I have come to understand more fully what the attraction to working with wax holds for me, and I think I can speak for many artists who work in the encaustic process. There is something so wonderful about wax and what it can bring to our senses, especially our sense of touch.  Being able to actually handle an object, touching and feeling it creates an immediate connection and not just for our ability to see. It brings an understanding that cannot be otherwise known.  
I travel a bit and have the fantastic opportunity to demonstrate the wonderful products that I have helped to make. One of the by-products, if you will, of these presentations is that I generate a lot of "samples." As soon as I have finished creating these samples, I send them off into the audience so people can see them, but that isn't all they do. After close inspection, they will smell them and then closing their eyes they feel them. 
Many of my demo pieces are done on paper. Sometimes I paint on the paper, other times I will make a print.  As time has gone by, I have come to have quite a collection of demo samples. I have chosen to fashion many of these into books. It is through creating these books that people are further encouraged to touch and feel and become a part of the art experience.   

Attracted to Anthraquinone Blue

Anthraquinone Blue

Anthraquinone Blue has become one of my go-to colors and I’ll tell you a little about it and why that is. It is a transparent blue with an excellent lightfast rating. It is very dark in value, an optical black unmixed. It has a strong tinting strength, yet is easily controlled when creating mixes. There are several manufacturers of this pigment and within each manufacturing company there can be options on which PB60 to choose from. Anthraquinone Blue pigments have a reddish cast, which can almost give the impression of a blue violet, some more than others. I had the privilege of helping in the selection of this pigment when Enkaustikos added it to their paint line. It has a balanced reddish cast in mass, but there is a slight hint towards green in the undertone, making it a nice choice for mixing with yellows, even Indian Yellow PY 110 for those deep and lustrous greens. 

The name Anthraquinone is perhaps better known by the name of Indanthrone Blue especially with oil paint manufacturers. Other names you might recognize for this pigment in the art industry are Delft Blue, Indian Blue and Faience Blue. This blue is more commonly associated with a deep indigo due it’s dark hue. 

Have you ever looked up to the midnight sky and are still able to see blue? That’s what  Anthraquinone Blue looks like when extended with wax medium. It maintains a lot of depth and richness without becoming dull.  When I was first in art school, I used to wonder how artists could paint the night sky and have it look so luminous. Once, when in Leon, France, I looked up at the sky and saw the exact color I had in my minds eye. Later in that same trip I was visiting Notre Dame Cathedral and was surprised to see the same color used in the interior of some of the annexes. I’m not saying that France is the only place to experience this color, but let’s just say I was at the right place to be so imprinted. 

Anthraquinone Blue has completely different properties than Phthalo, Ultramarine, or Prussian Blues. Some artist say it resembles Ultramarine Blue, but I can not agree with that statement at all. It mixes completely differently, it is much darker in value, and does not have near the red cast that Ultramarine Blue has, nor its bright clarity. It is not nearly as vibrant with the green undertones as Phthalo Blue. Anthraquinone Blue is most similar in nature to Prussian Blue (PB27) without the intensity of chroma that Prussian Blue has or the strong green undertone of the Prussian Blue. When mixed with white though, it tends to grey out quickly to a "navy", and if bluish grey is what you are looking for, try mixing it with any of the umbers. Other colors you might consider optimal for mixing with Anthraquinone Blue are Alizarin Crimson PR177 for a nice range of purples, Anthraquinone Orange PO43 for an intense transparent chocolate brown, and any of the Phthalos to make it more brilliant. 

What does this all mean to you and why might you want to incorporate Anthraquinone Blue into you palette? First, if you tend to work with darker values or paints with less intense chroma, you might find Anthraquinone Blue a nice alternative to other blues. If you like to extend your paints with a lot of medium to get soft glazes, this blue will maintain its richness and give you the depth you are looking for without being overpowering. This color is a must have if you like to do any kind of encaustic printmaking. It is an exotic, sensuous blue, sure to seduce you with its charms.