Oh you, my handful of followers whom I so greatly appreciate:
I haven't been able to paint because I've been schlepping furniture and boxing
up my mother's life. I have been so fearful that I might be erasing her life by
dealing with her possessions, that now my entire house is filled with boxes of
her chatchkes! (sp?) It's been a slow painstaking process of going through each
box and having her decide which things she will part with. She's pretty ruthless---
she loves only the very worst (in my opinion :-) ). She divested herself of all of her
furniture and a few of her good things: 2 oriental rugs, a few antiques and ancient
silverware (and not to me) at 62 convinced she wouldn't live much longer. At one
point, she had 2 forks in her kitchen drawer so when my daughter and I visited,
I had to resort to a plastic fork. When I moved her from Boston to San Antonio, I
built up a new little empire for her so she would be comfortable and have nice
surroundings. I'm not sure she ever cared, and now I'm the one dealing with all
of it. My mom turned 94 on August 1 so she's way outlived her own prognostication!
I can't stress enough how I long to be in my little hovel of a studio comparing
relative values and smelling paint, mixing colors and whining about my shortcomings!
Soon . . .
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tried to be more mindful about painting with relatively thick paint but
less densely . . . I thought, at first, it was a matter of edges and to some
extent, it is. But I think it may have more to do with not building up the
entire surface to the same thickness. It seems where thinner areas are
allowed to be visible, the surface seems to breathe. I tried to talk to
myself differently while painting this . . . told myself to not be fussy, if a
stroke contributed to the object being recognizable, that was good enough.
I have blind spots when looking at my own work and I think it's going to
take re-training to view it differently, maybe set up a different standard,
and that means, being willing to change and start doing things differently,
like stopping short of my idea of "finished."
This was an attempt to fit more objects onto this little surface and to
explore fairly dark values. I could have done more to give it more
drama. I love thick paint but want to find a way to use it so that it doesn't
look "dense" or so opaque. It may seem like I'm working toward opposing
ends but I see that quality in others' work.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 9:57 AM
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I have been painting but each time I go to to photograph, it's started
raining---which Texas needs! I spend some time each day looking at other
artists' work whether contemporary daily painters or past artists hoping
whatever it is I like about their work will rub off on me. And then as I try
to channel them while painting, I fear I will copy them. The antidote to
that fear is to go ahead and copy . . . just trying to emulate someone
else's style doesn't result in a work that could be mistaken for the
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 4:26 PM
Saturday, September 18, 2010
I thought it would be hard to see plane changes in these very pale golden
apples but it was easier than the red apples. I really enjoyed doing this
one, tried to keep the strokes to a minimum. I visited Laurel Daniel's
blog yesterday laureldaniel.blogspot.com and was impressed with her
value studies . . . wonderful drama without color!
Friday, September 17, 2010
Several people have commented over the past few months that I need
to ignore/silence the too-critical voices in my head. In 2001, I did a series
called Persona giving 15 of them form. They are monotypes (one-of-a-kind
prints) done on an etching press with lithography ink and mixed media.
They were also set up for giclee printing (reproductions). Anyone interested
in seeing more "voices," can visit my website: www.lorraineshirkus.com.
I had tried for awhile to carry this style into oil on canvas but was less
than impressed at the time (yes, I know :-) ). It may have had more to do
with lack of a new compelling idea to work out and too little time . . . hours
sitting in the studio with not much to show for the time spent. Deciding to
try the little still-lifes felt more productive and learning to paint form is a
rewarding challenge to my left brain. It's all process. I feel so lucky to have
this interest in art and drive to learn.
Depending on the angle, these apples have a Mae West "bosom"
which seem impossible and they're very hard to paint. Something in
me is still resisting exaggerating it enough to capture its true personality.
I was going to abandon apples for a bit and paint something like glass
which I have no preconceived notions about and no experience with . . .
I would have to really look at shapes and values. My compulsiveness,
however, continues to be drawn to apples. Sometimes that tenacity is
good and sometimes it's good to take a hiatus and return with fresh eyes.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 7:39 AM
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I don't think I've captured Eve's likeness here . . . I tend to idealize things:
people & objects into my idea of them rather than how they are. I'm working
on that but it does bring to mind all the other things in other facets of my
life that I probably endowed with qualities that weren't really there. Can
I even be a judge of what is really "there?" As a painter or any kind of artist,
are we creating or observing? More than likely, both, but I've listened to
instructors say "paint what you see." I believe they're being honest but
suspect they "see" with more than just their eyes. They've developed a
faculty that the rest of us are just beginning to comprehend. I heard a piece
on NPR about the deaf . . . that they "hear" through vibrations in their bones
and even cells, that hearing isn't just a matter of functioning ears. Laurie
Anderson experimented with this in the eighties.
As a junior in college, I volunteered to shepherd a freshman art student who
was blind. She wanted to paint and I wanted her to sculpt, where I thought I
could actually help in developing her artistic abilities. She insisted on painting
which I thought was a waste of her time and mine. I think of her often---Naomi.
I wish I had a clue then about "seeing" without eyes. I might have done a better
job at helping her visualize the marks and colors she made on the canvas and
helped her to organize them in her own realm of visualization. She was blind from
birth, and it strikes me now that Naomi could "see" in her mind. Her
stubbornness about painting had a wisdom I couldn't understand at the time.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Back to basics . . . wish I could take credit for this title but it's actually
an apple from New Zealand called "Eve." I have two other paintings
that I'll photograph in the morning . . . all the same apple on different
grounds, color backgrounds. Realizing the importance of temperature
and the need for green and other cool colors to make red be red.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 7:45 PM
Saturday, September 11, 2010
I keep thinking I'm working really hard at this . . . then realize I put
down a mindless stroke without even looking at the setup. Today,
I decided I needed discipline . . . just kept bringing myself back to
the task at hand---to look, squint, pay attention to relative values.
I set this up to be fairly monochromatic to intentionally limit myself.
There are things I've done well, but overall, I'm not seeing the surface
as organized as I intended. The dominant value thing---how much of
the surface is dark, light or medium---it ended up being mostly medium
with dark and light contending. I may be value-dominant-dyslexic.
I think I think too much.
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I don't yet know how I feel about this painting because I'm still in the
grip of the "Big Doubt." I wanted to post it, however, because I managed
to turn my ocean-liner of a brain around and painted differently from my
usual. Instead of painting apples, I tried to lay in shapes in dark, medium
and light. The canvas looked more like a map than a recognizable collection
of objects for a good bit of the time. When I worked abstractly, the thing
I loved most was to make the surface "sing." Want a purple next to that
orange? No prob. I find it much more difficult to impose that on this loose
facsimile of reality. I don't have an answer to why I limit myself while working
in this realm, but I do. I could do anything I wanted, create my own reality
but so far, I don't. I did put that turquoise next to red and carried it through
the apple! And I didn't disguise it or blend it. There's hope.
Monday, September 6, 2010
Tried apples again this weekend and this was the better of the two. The
"idea" was to get back to basics: use fewer strokes, choose complementaries
for the set-up (red/green(turquoise) and yellow/purple) This has more
life and vibrancy than the past two apple paintings. I think. I was torn
between continuing work in a series or moving onto different subject matter.
My problem with apples is that I believe I know what they look like so I stop
really looking. I do see and put in the cool reflective shadows in lavendar and
green, then my brain tells me "that's impossible" so I blend them into the
warm colors. This time, I tried to leave them alone. What I need to focus on
next is figuring out the value dominance thing Carol Marine talks about. While,
of course, committing to fewer strokes and remembering to trust the colors
that appear to be impossible. I'm also going to work on just "suggesting" objects
instead of rendering them . . . something I always start out doing and realize
in progress, that I've reverted back to being too literal and rendering.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Here I am working in the afore-mentioned series to compare one
painting to another to try to determine the merits (or not). When I'm in
this debilitating state of doubting my judgment, I'm hyper-aware that
I could be starry-eyed like watching my little daughter in a tutu on stage
for the first time and oblivious to the obvious.
I've read David Leffel and Greg Kreutz's books and understand the
importance of an idea in painting but I think my understanding of the
word "idea" may be missing their point. Like in art class a thousand
years ago, I equated "fat" paint with thick paint, not paint laden with oil.
I don't know what my "idea" for these apple paintings is. Leffel and Kreutz
write about a decision to paint in complementary colors or chiaroscuro.
I haven't equated anything remotely that pedestrian with "idea" or concept.
Idea and Concept are lofty words to me . . . like Soul---that mysterious infusion
of feeling a good painting conveys. Of course, both Leffel and Kreutz do that
very well while I still struggle. "Idea" was easier to grasp as an abstract painter.
As a graphic designer, I listened for years to marketing people discuss
"concept." They were talking about stats and demographics. Poor things,
I thought, they don't know what the word means. It's apparent that words
evoke pictures and the pictures I associated with their words didn't necessarily
coincide with their pictures or their meaning. Well. In the end, it comes down to
me . . . time to get down from my loft and try to figure out those words right
here on earth and apply them to the task at hand. I want my real pictures
If anyone is willing, I'd appreciate your take on this one compared to the apples
2 posts ago . . . Everyone is so nice or kind when commenting on this blog . . .
I truly am asking for feedback or constructive criticism . . . I hope for a dialog.
I can take it.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
I had a truly dreadful week of painting and scraping and wiping due to
doubting how I see my own work. Not being able to assess what you're
seeing could really drive a person crazy. Jean Townsend assured me it
happens and gave some practical advice: work in a series, keep them,
however bad you think they are, then compare to see which you prefer.
The next step, I guess, would be to figure out what it is you like about
the one you prefer and trust that as you go forward.
I'm periodically aware that I often work with a conflicted mind: still have
visions of painting like my heroes (the San Francisco Bay Area painters)
and forget that I am not them. The goal, of course, is to find a way to
paint that is intrinsic to me. It sounds so simple, but after years of looking
at art, years of working in different ways and in different creative fields,
I've got a lot of clutter in here.