Monday, May 02, 2016

Planning, Intuition, Imagination

"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success." - Picasso

Cloudburst Over Marsh work in progress
Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
Do your paintings talk back to you as you paint them?

During Anselm Kiefer’s talk at the Getty last week, he mentioned that he starts a piece with an idea in mind, but during the process the artwork will often transform into something else.

Usually I begin a painting with what I think is a clear intention of what the painting is about; the content, the subject, the mood and also the scale, the palette, and to what extent it will be painterly and textured.

Cloudburst Over Marsh sketch 
Katherine Kean
graphite 8 x 10 inches
I almost always go to Nature as the source of inspiration. I also make use of the many intellectual rules of composition. You know them: the Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci Spiral, the Rule of Thirds, etc. With these ideas in the back of my mind I rearrange the elements of the landscape to align to the framework of the canvas. Clouds up and to the left, tree down and to the right, the curve of a road from here to there, and so on.

Cloudburst Over Marsh study 
Katherine Kean
oil on linen 6 x 6 inches
Most of the time everything proceeds as imagined, and I’ll think I know when and how the painting will arrive.

Cloudburst Over Marsh work in progress 
Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
“An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought." - Picasso

Cloudburst Over Marsh work in progress 
Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
Lately I find that as I approach this anticipated completion, I’ll begin to see something else and if I slow down and let it happen the painting seems to suggest a direction it would like to go – which may or may not be what I’d originally intended. 

Cloudburst Over Marsh detail 
Katherine Kean
oil on linen 40 x 40 inches
Often the shift is subtle, a part I wasn’t too concerned about starts to become more of a focus point. A section of sky asks to be darkened, a carefully painted cloud all but disappears. A faintly suggested tree demands attention and detail. Other times it might as well be a completely different painting. If I take the hint and follow up, the results often make sense and I wonder why it wasn’t part of my “original plan” – or was it? It’s hard for me to tell where imagination ends and intuition begins.

And yet, I’m starting to like this way of working.

“Picasso was writing about this subject when he said: “I consider a work of art as the product of calculations, but calculations which are frequently unknown to the author himself. It is exactly like the carrier pigeon calculating his return to the loft. But the calculation that turns out to be correct is unknown to him; it is a calculation that precedes intelligence.” - Keeper of the Flame, An essay on Max Shertz and his Art of the Unconscious. By Daniel Kaufman, Artist and Writer

Monday, March 21, 2016

Liquid Sun Splash

Liquid Sun Splash Sketch Katherine Kean
graphite 8 x 10 inches
If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” - Mark Twain

The weather in Hawaii provides a similar effect, or rather than waiting as it changes, a person can experience radiant sunshine and pouring rain simultaneously.

Liquid Sun Splash wip Katherine Kean
oil on linen 12 x 16 inches
This provides a new challenge for me when it comes to windshield weather paintings. Instead of a soft, misty background as a backdrop for well defined rain drops, the background is bright in places, and parts of the road are sharp along with some of the water edges. 

Connect the Drops Katherine Kean
oil on linen 12 x 16 inches
Between the Drops Katherine Kean
oil on linen 12 x 16 inches
Counting Raindrops Katherine Kean
oil on linen 12 x 16 inches
It's less about a foreground veil for gazing out from a separate interior world and more about the sudden encounter and the dynamic patterns made.

Liquid Sun Splash wip Katherine Kean
oil on linen 12 x 16 inches
I've let the brushstrokes remain painterly, brushy, a little bit textured and slightly raised, particularly for the drops. It's almost there, I think, just a few more touches.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Did you hear that?

It’s not very loud. Just a faint scratch on paper, or a soft blerp or splat or splosh or slosh of paint, and perhaps an occasional sigh. The sounds of the art studio and work being made with pencil and paint.*

First the thumbnail sketches...

 Then the studies.

Eventually underpainting begins.

And at last the first color layer.

That's not the end of it. There is more to come, so stay tuned.

"Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting that speaks". Plutarch

*onomatopeia - a word, which imitates the natural sounds of a thing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Three to Get Ready

Deukmajian Wilderness Trail Sketch Katherine Kean
graphite on paper 8 x 10 inches
 I read somewhere that just thinking about the future—not even the rewards, per se—can strengthen willpower.

During the last few days of 2015 an artist friend had a great idea to sit down on an evening with calendars ready and pencils in hand and create a plan for the coming year. We mapped out how many paintings we would paint, what sizes they will be. We decided which new skills and levels of accomplishment we will reach and what kind of study, classes, or workshops might be required to reach these improvements. We also counted in time for travel, family, friends, and fun, time to experiment and time to take risks. When we were finished we marveled and laughed at our ambitions and wondered if the year would be big enough to hold all that we planned to put into it.

Foothill Storm Clouds Sketch Katherine Kean
graphite on paper 8 x 10 inches
“Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle maneuvers.” – Kafka

I’ve always been curious about how other artists structure their days. I know what works for me, the hours that are the most productive, how to get started, and how to avoid distractions - that is, as long as I'm choosing to be productive. Mason Currey has put together a book that gives a glimpse into the routines and work habits of well known artists, composers, and writers in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work.

Liquid Sun Splash Sketch Katherine Kean
graphite on paper 8 x 10 inches
“I calculate that I must have spent nearly 20,000 hours in writing Ulysses.” – James Joyce

“Sooner or later, the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.” – V.S. Pritchett

So, with calendar, list of goals, and a calculator I added up my plan of paintings and divided by available studio hours to see if there is a possibility to make these studio dreams come true. Mathmatically at least, yes, seems that there is. Let's see how it goes...

Monday, January 18, 2016

Winter Wet Paint

The winter months, such as they are in Southern California, should be a perfect time for accomplishing some studio painting. Once the holidays are over, there are fewer distractions and the garden is less demanding. The number of daylight hours is growing again, but it's still cool enough to work through the day. The catch is this - drying time slows down - a lot. A small study or painted edge that might dry overnight at other times of year might take a week - or more. I've taken to placing smaller work in front of the fireplace to try to speed the drying up.

Storm and Eucalyptus Tree wip Katherine Kean
oil on linen 30 x 40 inches
When I can, I paint working wet into wet. I find it more challenging than working in layers, allowing each to dry completely. Yet, working directly has certain advantages. The rules of fat over lean are less consequential in direct painting. 

Detail-Storm and Eucalyptus Tree wip Katherine Kean
oil on linen 30 x 40 inches
 Except for the underpainting layer, the painting above has been proceeding entirely with wet into wet technique, although I haven't decided yet whether to paint the tree into the wet paint, or allow it to dry first.

Underpainting - Storm and Eucalyptus Tree wip Katherine Kean
oil on linen 30 x 40 inches
In the meantime I've been keeping a drop of clove oil on the palette to keep the paint fresh overnight. The cool weather and the clove oil fumes are all it takes to keep the paint from drying, and it makes the studio smell amazing.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A busy year

Volcano Night Katherine Kean
oil on linen 8 x 16 inches
Some years seem to go by with nary a milestone. That doesn't mean that nothing is happening, just that much of it might be confined to the studio, or even residing quietly in the imagination waiting to be born. For me, 2015 was not one of those years. How or why, I can't say. It has been a year of exhibitions and journeys.

Here are some highlights. 

TRAC 2015 (Thank you, Shanna)

Hawaii - Magic Island  

Exhibitions, group, local, pop up, and open studio...
click on the image for a corresponding post.

Here's to 2015 and looking forward to a wonderful 2016. Wishing you all the best. 
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays and a Cumulus Christmas

Billowing Katherine Kean 2015
oil on linen 30 x 30 inches

Warm wishes to all for a beautiful holiday season!