Project: 365

Back in October, I started a new, year-long project to document my ongoing practice of visual exploration.  I think of this exploration as central to the work of the artist.  I’m calling the project simply “365” and the end result (to the extent that a project like this ever ends) will be 365 small watercolors presented at this year’s Gowanus Open Studios, October 17-18.

I started the project on or about October 19, immediately after last year’s Open Studios, and we are now more or less at the six-month mark.  So I’m evaluating how the project is going and taking a first crack at formulating some sort of artist’s statement about the work.  I’m also beginning the arduous task of scanning some exemplars of the work.  I’m certainly not going to scan all 365 pieces I create!

365 exemplar from late 2014. Watercolor on paper, 4×6″ 

The project is bookended by the Open Studio event that happens each year in October.  I’ve taken part in Gowanus Open Studios every year since 2007, and I’ve often experienced it as the beginning and end of my artistic cycle.

So what goes on in my typical artist’s year?  This project seeks to outline just that.  It represents a year in the life of the artist — or in other words, a year of practice, process  and exploration.

Fantastical self-portrait, watercolor, 6×4″, February, 2015

As I said, all of the work created for this project is small (between approximately 3×5 inches and 8×8 inches) and all of the work is watercolor.  Included are portraits and self-portraits, improvised sketches and landscapes real and unreal, life-drawing, completely abstract work, flights of the imagination and studies for future larger paintings.  All stuff of which the artist’s practice is made.

365 pieces will be displayed in October, and all will be offered to the public on a “pay as you wish” basis.  Here are some exemplars of the work created so far. Mark your calendars now! Gowanus Open Studios 2015 is October 17-18.

December 2014, watercolor, approx. 4×4″ 
October, 2014
Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, late October, 2014
December 2014
December 2014
November 2014
November 2014
December 2014
December 2014

Studio Notes – paysage planétaire completed

This is the final installment of my series of posts following the progression of a painting I started at the beginning of January – a “paysage planétaire” inspired in part by the work of Ferdinand Hodler and other painters from that era.  So, in my last post, described the overpainting.  Earlier this week, I put the final touches on this and completed the piece.  It was a little touch and go there for a while, but I think it’s come out pretty well:

Paysage detail
Paysage detail
Paysage detail - beefed up the clouds a little bit.
Paysage detail – beefed up the clouds a little bit.
Just about done at this point.
Just about done at this point.
Paysage detail.
Paysage detail.
One of the final pieces is the signature.
One of the final touches is the signature.

So here it is, complete.  Took about a month.  Part of the time was waiting for the layers to dry.  Lately I’ve been experimenting with a more traditional medium (stand oil and oil of Spike Lavender) which works great but dries slowly.  These were the only additives (besides mineral spirits and a little linseed oil) used in this painting.

Paysage planétaire (Avalanche Pass), oil on canvas, 24x24", 2015
Paysage planétaire (Avalanche Pass), oil on canvas, 24×24″, 2015

Studio notes – paysage planétaire, continued

I’m getting a bit behind in my blogging. The month is fast rolling to its completion, I’ve got what feels like a hundred pots in the fire.

Among those, the “paysage planétaire” I started several weeks ago continues to evolve. Last week, the underpainting was complete and I worked on the blue areas – sky and water.  This evening I worked on everything else.

Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″

 

The painting is fast approaching completion.

Paysage planétaire in progress.
Paysage planétaire in progress.
Paysage detail
Paysage detail

As I said before, every painting is an experiment, an exploration.  I cannot yet say if this one is a happy experiment.  I also cannot say whether it is finished. It could be.  Any thoughts on this?

Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″

Studio Notes – the paysage in progress, continued

As noted last week, I’m blogging the progress on a new landscape (a “paysage planétaire” in the spirit of Ferdinand Hodler).  On Sunday, I completed the underpainting:

Underpainting completed, Paysage planétaire, oil on canvas, 24x24", in progress
Underpainting completed, Paysage planétaire, oil on canvas, 24×24″, in progress

Tonight, I had very little time to get into it, so I just worked on the sky and water – the blue areas, mainly.

Paysage planétaire in progress, detail
Paysage planétaire in progress, detail
Paysage planétaire as it stands tonight, 1/13/2015
Paysage planétaire as it stands tonight, 1/13/2015

So far, so good! It starts to look more like a painting — i.e., something unique and distinct.  To be continued.

Studio Notes – the landscape evolves

As a sort of journalistic experiment, I’m going to follow the development of my recently started Paysage planétaire painting through several blog posts.  This should be interesting, and maybe disastrous, since I don’t know how the painting is going to turn out. For me, creating is perhaps like giving birth to something — that something has a unique and independent existence.  (Or, to put a humorous spin on it, sometimes I feel like Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein — “It’s alive!”) Yes, I have a lot do with how it turns out, but ultimately the work takes on a life of its own.  If things go well, it’s almost as if the painting paints itself. So far, I think it’s going well.

So recall where I left it the other day:

"Paysage planétaire" in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
Paysage planétaire in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″

Essentially this what is classically referred to as the “cartoon” – just the outline.  I also added a little texture and shading in blacks, whites and grays.  Today I started filling in the underpainting:

Paysage in progress, shot #1
Paysage in progress, shot #1

First blue sky. Then I started adding some greens:

Paysage progress shot #2
Paysage progress shot #2
Paysage progress shot #3
Paysage progress shot #3

Essentially I’m taking a layered approach, or a semi-layered approach.  I could have done it all alla prima, wet-on-wet, in one big session.  My plan is to finish the underpainting in this fashion, and then do a big alla prima overpainting to finish it off.  That will either complete the piece — or ruin it.

Here’s where I’ve left it tonight:

Paysage planétaire in progress (as of 1/6/2015), oil on canvas, 24x24".
Paysage planétaire in progress (as of 1/6/2015), oil on canvas, 24×24″.

The underpainting is not quite done. I’ll finish that up soon. And I’m going to find the reference to “paysage planétaire” and report back here.

Oh, in case you’re wondering the reference for this piece is a photograph I took in the Adirondacks (upstate New York) a few summers ago.  I’m not going to show that photo here since it is only a point of reference, an inspiration for the work, and not the work itself.  I don’t want to invite comparisons between this inspiration and the painting, which is definitely it’s own thing.  I’m not a fan of the concept of “representation” in art (at least as I currently understand it). But I’ll save that topic for another day.

Studio Notes – New landscape started

I spent some time in the studio this afternoon, stretching canvas and beginning a new painting in my “paysages planétaires” series.  A big inspiration for this series is the work of Swiss symbolist and proto-expressionist (my designation) Ferdinand Hodler.  (Occasionally I reblog Hodler images on my tumblr.) I believe I came across the term “paysage planétaire” in some essays about his work.  Alas, I can’t find the reference now.

Maybe it came to me in a dream.

In any case, this one is started.  Each painting is an experiment. Who knows how it will turn out!

"Paysage planétaire" in progress, oil on canvas, 24x24"
“Paysage planétaire” in progress, oil on canvas, 24×24″