Blue Series – Exercises in Abstraction

April 15, 2012 / no comments

I’ve always had a hard time loosening up and “letting art happen,” and instead often find myself stuck after attempting to micro-manage every aspect of what I’m planning to do.  As an exercise, I started working on a series of four abstracts based on closing my eyes and moving with unrestrained gestures.  I worked on all four abstracts in the same fashion, at every stage.

Wolfhound (Kali Tal 2012)

I chose various texturing pastes while listening to music. I thought of my arm and hand as dancing to the music, and focused on the movements rather than the results. When I’d finished six layers of texturing (maybe 2-3 per day), I laid down black lines of paint from an acrylic squeeze bottle, again with closed eyes, while listening to music. The idea was to learn to move fluidly, and to keep myself from getting in my own way by pulling my gestures short based on prejudgement of the results.

Blue Unicorn (Kali Tal 2012)

Once the lines were on the paper, I took a scraper and closed my eyes again, moving it against the paper as as the music moved me.  I walked away without looking, washed my scraper and came back the next day.  It surprised me, in every instance, that when I looked at the results I saw very clear images that gave me direction for continuing the paintings.  When the lines of the image resolved, I stared for a moment or two, closed my eyes again with the music on, and laid in a layer of clear acrylic gloss, filling in areas of the “body” that, in my mind, had emerged.  I knew that subsequent layers of acrylic would not adhere to the gloss layer, and that they would give body to the shapes the lines made in my head.

The Stork and Her Egg (Kali Tal 2012)

Then I glazed with subsequent layers of fluid acrylics, glosses, and spatters, letting them dry between applications.  For each of these applications, I looked at the image, and then closed my eyes before applying the medium.  In this fashion, the depth of the images and the backgrounds surfaced in round after round.  It was very, very hard to resist opening my eyes.  I blew it a couple of times, but in each instance I just put the brush or scraper down before touching the paper and walked away from the table.  Later I returned and finished the layer.

The Moon & Her Child (Kali Tal 2012)

I stopped working on an image when it “felt” done.  This happened at different times for each of the four pieces.  In the end, I was happier with the results than I’ve been with any of my other work in acrylics, mainly because of the strength and power of the lines. It’s a reminder that in art, sometimes, the less one thinks, the better.  For me, the struggle to find the balance between eyes, mind, and heart is at the center of it.

Adventures in Abstraction

July 23, 2011 / no comments

A few weeks ago I started a new series of paintings based on movement and intuition.  It’s a new thing for me — painting from my gut instead of my eyes and my head. The truth is I think too much and I talk too much, and so I’m trying to just shut up and paint.  That’s why I’m not going to talk much about these paintings, though I will explain my process a bit. They are all done on A3 Gerstaecker Universal recycled paper. In all cases I limited myself to 3 colors + black.

“Gossips with Dog,” Lascaux acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, pencil, rubber resist, scrapers. Kali Tal 2011

In all cases I started by applying the Lascaux black right out of the squeeze bottle, listening to music, with my eyes closed. The goal was to get sweeping lines that matched my emotional state, and to keep them rhythmic.  I let the black lines dry a bit (using a hairdryer to speed the process) and then went to work with a scraper to give them more of a sense of movement.

“The Merman,” Lascaux acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, resist, scrapers. ©Kali Tal 2011

Then I turned off the music and studied the black lines.  In some cases (the Gossips and the Merman above) the shapes immediately suggested the direction of the painting.  I used resist to mask off the parts that I wanted to keep white before painting other shapes in color. Then I masked again.  It’s a bit hard to see in the photos, but there is a lot of glazing to create the shading in each layer.

“Heart / Hand,” Lascaux acrylic, Golden Fluid Acrylics, resist, pencil. © Kali Tal 2011

In “Heart / Hand,” after masking off the white spaces, I dropped thinned Fluid Acrylic on the paper and blew it around with the hair dryer in order to create interesting patterns. I masked over parts of the glazing in each layer to create depth, and then then worked with pencil.  It’s called “Heart / Hand” because viewing it with the golden trunk at the bottom of the page makes it look like a growing tree or a hand.  But flip it 180 degrees and the trunk comes down like an aorta into the chambers of a heart.

“Vicious Circle,” Lascaux acrylics, Golden Fluid Acrylics, resist, pencil. © Kali Tal 2011

My emotional connection to “Vicious Circle” was very intense, and the wailing, tortured figure simply jumped off the page when I took a look at the way the black paint had dried. This is the most layered of all the abstracts and I used resist as a kind of negative paint, moving it around with both the toothed scraper and wooden chopsticks.  Like the paint, the resist was added in succession, masking different colors in different textures.

All the paintings were created over about a week’s time, because each layer of glazing had to dry thoroughly. I found that if the paper was even the least little bit damp, it would stay wet after the resist was poured on, and rubbing the resist would also rub off the underlying paint.  Though this is the very beginning of my experiment, I’m pleased with the results so far and I’m going to keep at it until I feel like I’ve taken this particular technique to its limit.  The plan is to work on paper, and eventually “graduate” to canvas when I feel more in control of the process.