Sunday, August 13, 2017

Transfers 2017


Transfer: 1. an act of moving something or someone to another place 
               2. a small colored picture or design on paper that can be transferred to another surface by being pressed or heated.



 Dog(with Doe and Spots)2015

Although I've been teaching transfer processes in my workshops for years, it's only been recently that I've started to incorporate transfers into my own work.  In the past, I've directly glued onto my painted surfaces. It works--you get what you see.  Transfers, on the other hand, are not that, and, as far as I can tell, pretty much starting a dance with the devil.  Not only do you not get what you see, in fact, you get the reverse, since the transfers are always mirrored.  If you are doing a paper transfer, you don't see anything at all since the paper backing is opaque.  If you do an ink jet transparency, you see what's underneath your transfer, but somehow, in the process, what you thought you were getting is never exactly what you saw in the first place.

 Wrapped Crane 2016

You have the ability to take whatever is in your computer, print it out, and then apply it to another surface.  The surface can be white, and your image will be pretty true to your original, or you can have a painted surface underneath, and that will change the nature of what comes through.  But you can almost always count on something going wrong, either something won't transfer completely, or you will have forgotten to change it to mirror image in the computer, or part of the image will transfer and part won't(always, of course, the parts that matter the most being what's not left behind).  Because the transfers are so tricky, I've become obsessed with them.  I'm constantly trying to find the perfect, least labor intensive method of making the transfers.  Like a true scientist, I'm continually trying different papers--writing to companies and asking for samples, ordering what I think might work from EBay or Amazon, even (I know this is hard to believe) taking and keeping notes.

However, this seems to be part of the dance, that it's risky and scary, and that you mostly don't know whats going to happen. When you peel or pull away the backing material you have something that may be the most wonderful thing you've ever seen, or just bad--but a good dance nonetheless.

Man Being Surprised 2017
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Monday, July 31, 2017

Tiny House 2017

As four year olds, we were boyfriend and girlfriend, but then his parents moved to a city 60 miles away, ending the torrid love affair.  17 years later we met again, him tracking me down after seeing one of my lithographs in a student exhibition. Events unfolded and we ended up living together for some 14 years before we had our first daughter.  We decided to get married when I became pregnant with our second, much to my mother's relief. When he became seriously ill recently, I suddenly had a picture of my life without him in it, and it was terrible.  This painting was made to celebrate the fact that he still is very much in my life.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Culling: Summer 2017


At a certain point in the last few days, I realized that I had no more room.  My shelves were completely full, my storage units packed and popping, and my table tops full of all the stuff(plus much much more) I need to work with.  I knew I had to cull the herd.  Like Sophie, I knew that the choices I had to make were almost arbitrary:  Who was more likely to sell?  Who had the stronger personality?  Who made my stomach churn the least when I thought about him or her out on the table ready to be gassed(aka gessoed over)? After almost a year of abstinence  I began ripping at my fingernails.  I would select a piece, then put it back, then re-select it.  At last I was ready for my husband, Bob, to help me decide who lived and who died. 
We went back and forth, allowing some pieces back on the shelf, others doomed to the big  Kilz brush waiting outside.  I gathered the rejects up, then lay them outside on the long wooden tables in the 90+ degree heat.  I began going over the surfaces.  Gone, gone and gone, Sophie the dog witnessing.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Fred Smith John Michael Kohler Arts Center


On a recent trip to Wisconsin, I managed to make it to the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan.  It's a small museum(the woman's bathroom was a tiled wonder  https://www.jmkac.org/explore-discover/collections/washrooms-new), and quite lovely.  The exhibits that were up were part of a series of 15 exhibits that would allow us to experience artists whose work is their environment.  All were outsider artists, all were quirky, fun, and interesting.  However, the pieces that moved me the most were work by an artist named Fred Smith(1886-1976). The son of German immigrants, and a lumberjack until the age of 50, he began his sculpture garden on property that he owned that ran alongside Highway 13 outside Phillips, Wisconsin.  He worked on it for 15 years, until 1964 when he suffered a stroke and was incapacitated until he died in at the age of 90.  The figures all are made of concrete, then covered with broken bits of glass.  Most are life sized, or larger.  He is quoted as saying, "Them ideas is hard to explain.  Nobody know why I made them, not even me". The quirkiness, the dignity, and the power of his figures made me feel that I had come home, found a safe harbor.  From what I got from seeing only two sculptures, I can only imagine the pleasure and inspiration for me of actually going to the sculpture garden in Phillips where 237 of his figures exist.  Looks like a trip is in the not too distant future.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Man Being Touched 1988


On Monday of this week, my husband's right leg began to swell.  He had been experiencing pain in his buttock, but could tease it away by stretching.  However, this new development concerned us. On Tuesday, he had an ultra sound taken of his leg, knowing that it might be a DVT(deep vein thrombosis), but it showed nothing of concern.  We sighed a collective sigh of relief:  our daughter's wedding was to be held in a few days in Mexico and we were relieved that we would be able to go.  The next day his leg was more swollen, and quite painful.  This time he had an ultra sound done, which showed that he had an enormous blood clot that went down his chest and into his right leg.  Weak with anxiety and fear, he had himself admitted to one of the big the ERs here in town where he was pretty much ignored,  then checked himself out AMA(against medical advice)and was readmitted our Heart Hospital, where a surgeon was waiting with a team to do a thrombectomy(1). Two days and three procedures later he was released from the hospital to begin a new life with daily blood thinners and the knowledge that his body was not the strong, capable vessel he always thought of it as being.We were able to watch the wedding on FaceTime sitting at our kitchen counter in front of my Ipad.  Not what we had imagined, but good enough.

(1)  the emergency surgical removal of emboli which are blocking blood circulation. It usually involves removal of thrombi (blood clots)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Breathing 1997

This last week I went from having bad allergies to suddenly having a bad chest cold.  I went to see my acupuncturist, Dr. Chu, who tortured me with needles and cupping, then sent me home with instructions to make sure I wore socks with my shoes(I had worn flip flops in) and a baggie of herbs to be taken twice a day.  Two days later I couldn't seem to move, think, or react.  My cough had turned into a deep ,wracking, and painful bark and I began to bring up nasty looking phlegm, colors that I wouldn't have minded using in my paintings but didn't feel good about making in my lungs, which ached terribly. My husband and I talked it over(he's a physician)and we decided that I had contracted a bacterial infection in my lungs(aka pneumonia) and I needed to start on antibiotics.  I'm an antibiotic nihilist, but, in this case, it seemed clear to me: if I didn't do something, I was going to be toast.  So, I started on doxycycline. I couldn't help but feel that something dark and scary had been knocking on my door, and I needed to do everything I could to keep that door shut, including wearing socks at all times and taking my daily dose of doxy.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Painting with oil 2017

 Woman Brushing Her Hair 2017
 Woman with Black Hair 2000

I recently started painting with oils again after a 14 year hiatus. It was serendipitous really, a friend having just given me about 20 tubes of Gamblin oils.  http://hollyrobertsonepaintingatatime.blogspot.com/2017/04/floating.htm  I had plenty of tubes of oil paint in my studio that were left over from my oil painting days, but these new ones were colors I had never used before.  As well, I've been a little lost in the desert for the last couple of years with my old techniques and have been unsure of where I'm headed.  So, It's been interesting watching myself using this media that I was once so familiar with, but am now relearning, both in technique and approach.  

17 years ago, in 2000, when I did "Woman with Black Hair" I was basing my painting on the photo that lay underneath.  Although I've never been able to preconceive what the final painting would look like, I knew when starting that the image would have something to do with the photo, no matter how little or how much was left of it in the final painting.  Now, however, my creative self seems not to want to have anything to do with any photos, and my guide to what I'm going to paint seems to be the paint itself rather than the photo underneath.  "Woman Brushing Her Hair" does have an image buried beneath the paint, but nothing of it exists in the final piece.  As always, I have no idea of where I'm headed, but I do seem to have a very clear directive to just let go and allow the paint and my brushes to call the shots. Although this is the essence of how I've always made my work, there seems to be a new sense of confidence that didn't exist before. It understands that I just need to get out of the way, and that once I do, everything will be alright.