Attending the "Flat Places: Deep Identities" symposium hosted by the Center for Great Plains Studies allowed me to learn from ecologists, geologists, writers, poets, photographers, film-makers, theologists and cartographers of all kinds. My mind is still swimming with the conversations and ideas that emerged. It's so good to get out of the studio periodically to learn about what other people are working on. I'll be able to more deeply consider some of the emerging possibilities as I drive between home and Milwaukee to pick up art from the Walker's Point Center for the Arts exhibit of Midwest Artist Studios project members.
During two Saturday mornings in January, four Girl Scouts visited my studio and worked together to make two large paintings on paper. The paintings are now framed and ready to deliver tomorrow for this weekend's ArtVenture auction, a fundraising event for the Great Plains Girls Scouts.
I showed the girls how to mix oil paints with cold wax medium and ways to build layers and create textures and patterns. They made small pieces for themselves and collaborated to make the two large paintings. They were quiet at first, but once they began painting, they relaxed and chatted. With two 11th graders and two 6th graders, I wondered how the age differences would play out. They chose to work in pairs with an older girl working with a younger girl on each painting.
Working with the girls allows me to learn, too. I ask and answer questions, offer possibilities and watch as they come to their own decisions and creations. Their hands are the only ones involved in making these paintings. I see my role as introducing materials, tools and ideas and then giving them the space to explore. From choosing the color palette to titling the work, it all comes from the girls.
These two pieces are matted and framed and ready to display. I hope a buyer will be see the imagination and joy that made these pieces come alive. Join us Saturday to celebrate girls leadership, creativity and energy!
As part of my role as a teaching artist in the Midwest Artist Studios project, I had to provide an illustrated step-by-step description of creating a painting. Project founder Frank Juarez collects such descriptions from each artist and writes a curriculum around them to share with high school art teachers throughout the region. In our conversations, I discussed the importance of prairies and fostering a love for terrain and native plants in this distinctive regional landscape. I also talked about finding inspiration in your surroundings. My studio is in an old warehouse district of Omaha where native plants sometimes take root in empty lots and along chain-link fences. At this time of year, the sun creates blazes of color on the brick buildings late in the afternoon, and this painting is inspired by the view right out my studio window. Below are a few of the images of the painting as it progressed.
Most people imagine adding layers of color when you tell them you paint. My work on this piece recently was all about scraping and scratching into the surface to reveal colors underneath. The idea of reduction -- taking away -- is one I learned in printmaking. In that medium, one approach is to carve away sections of block after each color layer until the last lines are darkest outlines or shadow.
In current paintings where I use wax mixed with oil colors, I can build up layers, scrape down and build up again until I'm satisfied with the results. I've been working on this 20x20" panel as a way to avoid attention to pieces destined for the CostaRica-themed show I'm doing in September. At the same time, working on this piece allows me to experiment with colors, shapes and techniques that will likely appear in those paintings, too.
Getting into the studio has been a challenge with our summer commitments, but I was able to spend a few hours today working on paintings intended for a show in September. I'm still unsure how they'll all develop, but here's one of the 8x8" panels I'm working on today. It may change a lot before it gets to the gallery.