Friday, December 30, 2011
From tangerines in the dark to oranges in the light! If I'm going to
get on with moving toward where I want to go (wherever that is) it
seems a good thing to practice trying to be inventive. I had photo-
graphed these on a cedar bench outside so the actual background
was a bleached cedar color and the shadows almost black. I wanted
to paint the high contrast and the feeling of sunshine so what if . . . ?
I played around with a background color and took a lot of liberty with
the shadows, adding color and scraping it off. I feel pretty pleased with
this but still have to put it in different spots in my house and come upon
it as though I've never seen it before to see if my reaction stays positive.
I see a few areas that could use some work but on the whole, yes.
I never really know until I get other people's reactions.
Friday, December 23, 2011
I really enjoyed painting this . . . didn't worry much about
accuracy. Just decided to try to capture the spirit of these glowing
tangerines. The neighbor who owns this tree grew up in England
and told me he doesn't pick any until Christmas Eve following his
own traditions growing up. I hope you'll find your own stockings
filled with love. Happy Holidays!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Another pose from the tree. I'm learning a lot from working on a
subject that has a sort of overall pattern. There's so much information
that I can't focus on individual objects but instead, be more aware
of the entire surface. I'm still trying to stifle my overactive left-
brain tendency to put in everything I see. My intention for a long time
now, has been to flip my brain so that my painting is more about
mark-making, color relationships and light patterns than about rendering
individual objects. I've not yet been successful with that and part of it, I've
realized recently, is that I don't always work with an awareness of that
intention. I seem to slip, unaware, back into unconsciousness and trying
much too hard to render again and again. Still engaged in that dialog with
myself about "paint what you see." Remembered a picture book I'd
bought for my daughter many years ago—there was an apparent scene
that everyone seemed to see immediately, but if you altered your focus,
crossed your eyes and concentrated on different elements in the pattern,
the scene would shift to something entirely different. An apparent forest
could shift completely to a school of fish or something like that. This is
such an intriguing concept and makes me wonder what I'm missing in
what I'm seeing with my "regular" eyes. A new intention to add: when
looking at anything, to try to see beyond the objects and actually focus
on color relationships and light patterns. This is probably so obvious
but I can be so slow to get stuff, even stuff I know intellectually. Terry
Miura writes about his process with representation and how he tries
to go beyond the actual: http://terrymiura.blogspot.com.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
The best thing about South Texas is that after a hellacious summer
of drought and sauna-like temperatures, we're rewarded with trees
bearing fruit! And rain, finally! Happy Holidays y'all and all the
best in the new year!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Friday, December 2, 2011
This is another of the few survivors from the 3-weeks of painting oranges
binge, an early one when the hydrangea was still alive. I don't mind
reworking a painting but have learned to let them dry for a few days
before painting on them again. If the surface is not really dry, the new
layer of paint sinks in to the previous and dries "murky." It's satisfying
to try to salvage a painting that's not working—I feel much freer to try
something different, push and experiment a little more on a panel I already
consider a loss. And, I've accepted that I'm not really an alla prima painter.
Feel more comfortable layering and building a surface, letting previous
layers show through.
A few people commented on how great it was that Abend Gallery chose
my painting for the invitation. For a split second my heart leapt to my
throat when I saw it, but I think they created an individual digital invitation
for each artist . . . quite a lot of work and really nice of them!
And now I'm off to struggle with . . . tangerines!!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
in a holiday show of small works
at the Abend Gallery in Denver.
It's a great roster of artists and
I'm honored to be included.
Anyone in the Denver area
on Friday December 2nd, the
opening is from 5 - 9. With all
these fabulous artists, it's going
to be an outstanding event and
I wish I could be there!
The exhibit will be up until
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 6:53 AM
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Since my last post, I've tried to paint these two oranges in this position
at least twenty times. I took breaks from them by attempting to paint
roses again, then switched periodically to a larger landscape. My days
have been filled with frustration but thankfully, not despair . . . The
subject doesn't seem difficult but I just couldn't make the surface "sing."
Monday, November 7, 2011
Hydrangeas seem invincible . . . this one doesn't show any sign of
fading! Haven't had to worry one second whether it will die before
I figure out how to paint it! More adventures with subtlety, a limited
palette and strong color . . .
I'm starting to think that my time off may have led to a good shift.
I've had a string of total failures since coming back but my work
has changed so much since I started working from life and sometimes
it's hard to tell if there's improvement. Each subject and each new
painting demands beginning with fresh eyes and solving new problems.
It seems as if every few months something gets shaken up and new
struggles begin. What I do notice is that I'm not so obsessive in just
trying to paint forms; have become much more aware of the entire
surface, where it needs lights, darks, a complementary color. If something
comes to me to try, I try it. If it's bad, scrape it off. It's such a relief to be
freed of the fear of ruining it or regarding a painting as precious! A new
mindset . . . hopefully it will continue. Nah. It will probably go back and
forth forever but each time there will be a little more understanding and
more willingness to embrace it instead of feeling despair or failure. I don't
know anything about neurology or brain science but it seems that if you
truly desire to learn something, your brain accommodates your will. (?)
Huge huge thanks to everyone who takes the time to look and comment!
Saturday, November 5, 2011
I splurged this week and bought flowers to paint and felt
really excited. I had some great starts where everything flowed
and looked great value-wise and then I started struggling with
color–got too heavy-handed and I was afraid they'd die before
I "got it." I photographed them all to try another day. My
admiration for people who can paint flowers has grown tremendously.
My lesson was that I really needed to focus on subtlety: practice
tiny color & value shifts, experiment with whites, thick and thin
paint and make edges disappear. So wonderful that the challenges
in painting are endless!
This 8 x 10 panel seemed so small when it was white and then so
huge once there was paint on it . . .
Thursday, October 27, 2011
I've been painting and scraping and wiping, then switching to a
larger canvas and back to smaller for over a week now. Six days
out of town and rust had set in. Or maybe it's just that I think differently
at different sizes? Also tried a small painting of roses and that was a
dismal failure, but I will try again. But six days in Santa Monica visiting
my daughter was definitely worth it. We took day trips to Laguna and
Santa Barbara and the wine country . . . all breathtakingly beautiful!
There's such a big world out there and I need to get out into it more.
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 3:27 PM
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Friday, September 30, 2011
Another painting in the exhibit that opened last night at the Hunt Gallery.
Before leaving the house, the skies got very dark and rumbled with thunder.
Saw some impressive lightning strikes on the way but it rained so little
in my area. I thought the impending rain would keep people away and I
wasn't going to complain because Texas is desperate for rain. But it was
crowded when I arrived (on time) and stayed that way the entire two hours.
I met many terrific artists and art patrons but will have to go back to really
look at all the work when the gallery is empty. The exhibit is up until
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
A post at last! Finally completed and delivered the three paintings
that will be included in a group show opening 9/29. I found it hard
to switch to small-scale while I was working on the larger canvases
and hope to improve on that. One thing I'm learning lately is to get
out of my own way . . .
Saturday, August 27, 2011
This is a cropped version of a still life setup I photographed for a
larger painting. I'll post the larger one after Sept. 29, the opening
for a group show I'll be in at The Hunt Gallery. Anyone in San
Antonio then, please come. Y'all are invited!
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Virginia Floyd has tagged me to post work in these 7 categories:
#2--most popular. This got the most comments.
#3--most controversial. My commentary about
"paint what you see" generated a discussion.
#4--most helpful . . . helpful to me but I also got a few
private emails about this lemon series.
#5--success surprised me---received positive comments,
some from people who'd not commented before.
#6--didn't get attention it deserved . . . early post
#7--most proud of . . . I recall feeling pretty brave
while painting this. :-)
This was actually a hard thing to do! And here are the 5 artists
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 8:08 AM
Friday, July 29, 2011
And yet more lemons. This one was actually begun before the previous
post. I was trying for a tonal painting but it was too tonal and needed some
bright lights. I spend a little time each day staring at other artists' work I like.
There are paintings I've memorized but aspects of those paintings, specific
elements of what actually was done to achieve them, seem to escape my
left brain when I'm working. Whatever I do identify seems to evaporate.
Doing a series of studies of the same subject with similar lighting helps to
reinforce the small things I learn. But those lessons didn't carry over to
the coffee cup I tried to paint yesterday!
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 11:58 AM
Sunday, July 24, 2011
Monday, July 18, 2011
This is the 12 x 16 I was struggling with when I took a breather and
tried an oil sketch. Might be a good idea to do a sketch before attempting
a larger painting? It was still helpful to have a time out midway. The
difficulties I have are related to the way I see the paint I've put down.
I persist in thinking I could do it better so I hone in on the objects and
forget the rest of the surface. I feel I'm doing less of that and thinking
more in terms of light, texture, composition . . . how to make the surface
sing. I did the green background first and had lovely drips. Then painted
them out. I wasn't brave enough. Baby steps . . .
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Since I set foot into the representational world of painting, I've often
longed for painterly effects usually seen in more abstract work. I keep
trying to marry both on one surface and often feel like I end up with
something artificial. I know there are artists all over the place who
succeed. Looking at David Shevlino and Meier Appelfeld have helped
jog something, but I recently saw Terry Miura's blog and the idea of a
"sketch" finally penetrated my brain. I see "study" and "sketch" everywhere
on people's blogs out there but when I get to the studio, my "bad" self
takes over and pushes to make each painting a finished-done-for-posterity
painting. Sheesh! What an ego! I've been working on a larger (12 x 16)
of lemons in a row and struggling with it and a light bulb went off: why
not do "just a sketch?" My thinking and decisions were entirely different
from my usually rigid mind-set. I could think in terms of where I want lights
and darks for the composition. I could use runny paint and just let brush-
strokes be nothing more than brushstrokes. I admire Lisa Daria's work.
She doesn't let a boundary or outline confine her. I just can't seem to make
myself do the things I know I want to do. OK . . . time for a drink.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
I spent all day yesterday obsessed with painting this and wiped it
off three times, then gave up for the day. I notice I'm in an irritable mood
when paintings don't work out. I get anxious watching my tube of
permanent Alizarin get smaller and on the verge of psychosis as more
cad red goes onto the palette just to get scraped and wiped off the panel.
But I couldn't give up altogether. Part of the challenge of these variegated
apples is trying to keep value and color straight. Started fresh this morning
and told myself to slow down, step back with each stroke and assess. Because
I tend toward swashbuckling strokes, I often obliterate good strokes/values/colors
and end up with muck. My other weakness is that I don't notice quickly what
I've done well for the painting and compulsively paint over it. I'm learning
that I can wield the brush in different ways and it doesn't have to be rapid
to be loose. And, I am actually capable of putting a stroke down and leaving
Friday, July 1, 2011
Each time I think I've learned something to apply to
future paintings, it doesn't work again. Maybe that's as
it should be? So one always stays present and finds a
unique solution to the painting at hand? Still it would be
nice to feel like progress has been made with the craft of
painting but I'm still not getting the kind of surface I'm after.
Or, think I'm after. But then, there's also something to be
said about noticing what was done well enough, accept it
and look forward to the next one.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
I was on my way out to the studio to paint this orange and, as always,
had forgotten something so I set the orange and the ever-present cup
of tea on the deck table and was enthralled with the riot of color on
the green glass. So . . . of course, had to get the camera. The wind was
gusty and the tag dancing (a little bonus). I need to thank Carol Carmichael
and her wonderful blog for mentioning she had taken a David Shevlino
workshop. He's also on Painting Perceptions. I had seen his work before
but not recently so I spent a little time this morning watching his videos on
youtube. He has also produced a dvd of his own. Loved watching the way
he wields his brush.
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
This is a redo of a painting posted on May 13th. Each time I looked
at it, I felt dissatisfied. I'm becoming aware that my quest for painterly
effects sometimes overwhelms the subject. If I want to continue
painting figuratively (and I do), I'm going to have to find a better balance.
I'm happier with this version.
While playing around with cropping in photoshop it occurred to me
that I don't exploit composition enough. Taking a portion of a setup
would be a good thing for a 6 x 6.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Cherries are challenging . . . there were only two that were actually red.
Trying to figure out what colors the others were was a matter of trial
and error and much scraping and wiping. They really challenge any
notion of what you think you know color-wise.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
My first post in a long time . . . after the last batch, I just didn't seem
able to paint a thing! I have been painting every day, working on a
larger format and experimenting with heads, none of which are post-able.
I learn a lot (I think) but for all the movement forward, there are lots of
Friday, May 20, 2011
I thought this was finished a few days ago but every time I looked at
it, it seemed too tidy and neat, no excitement factor. I think I need
my heart rate to accelerate while painting so it feels like I'm taking
a risk and any moment, I could ruin the good parts. Loads of paint later . . .
finally beginning to understand the beauty of not defining the boundaries.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I needed to see how my foray into working larger translated back to
a 6 x 6-inch. I've learned a lot lately and it seems I've got multiple
personalities driving the paint but essentially, they are all me. I read
a quote on someone's blog attributed to Agnes Martin that she worked
toward seeing herself in her canvas. Maybe art is psychology . . . or
at least a mirror. I still can't judge whether the work is good or bad but
the great thing is that I'm excited every moment I'm in the studio. Right
now, I'm so grateful for that but know that soon, I'll have to tackle more
complex subjects and compositions . . . (deep breath)
Friday, May 13, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Closer still . . .
I've been enjoying the process but still have to constantly remind myself
that I'm not painting pears but concerned with the entire picture. Thinking
pictorially has been hard to regain while I've tried to learn form. Still have
to ask myself if the color, mark, value I'm about to put down will add
excitement or interest, make the surface come alive. It requires stopping
and deciding which strokes to not cover so thin initial strokes show, it's
about looking for texture and effects, color interactions and choosing
which tool: brushes or knife in specific areas. This is a very informal way
to work and not for everyone but it suits me. The same rules apply---still
need to pay attention to value and grays and space in order to convey the
subject/idea. The title is from the cover of an art history textbook: a Flemish
painting of a nobleman and his very pregnant wife.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Jean Townsend wrote on Saturday that working toward reducing detail
and losing edges feels hazardous, like everything will result in chaos if
allowed. That perfectly describes my inner state as I keep plodding. What
causes this fearfulness? It's just paint! It may have to do with a fear that I
may not be able to live up to my dream or shouldn't really trust my belief
that I really am an artist. Hence the trying too hard and the need for control
kicks in and before I'm aware of it, I'm painting from a conflicted place.
These past few months of using photos, images from TV and looking for
different ways to paint the same subject has eased the need to get things
"right." My little voice isn't scolding me for not quite matching that color.
More often, it now asks, "what if you put a splotch of red in that green
area, would it liven things up?"
Sunday, May 1, 2011
I'm actually thrilled with this little painting! I painted the lemons last,
mapped in their location hoping to keep my mind on making a painting
rather than on painting lemons. I thoroughly enjoyed making messy and
non-sensical strokes and blotches for everything non-lemon so when it
came time for the lemons, it felt easier to not over-think. I've been working
toward putting down marks, strokes, colors that would serve the picture
plane rather than the subject for quite awhile. It seems it's so much harder
to do when working figuratively. I've also been looking at "messy" painters
like Alex Kanevsky, Quang Ho, Robert Spooner, Kim English, Jordan
Wolfson, Thai Shan Schierenberg. This painting isn't much but it feels like
a milestone. It's another step . . . forward, I hope!
Friday, April 29, 2011
Experimenting . . . trying to use paint more loosely so the result is
airier and less "concrete." This is painted from an image on the TV.
My aim is to move farther away from realism while still working
figuratively and the thought was that an image from a moving screen
would help my brain in the transition. There are many versions under
this one (for anyone who might have missed me and thought I was
slacking off :-)) but however loosely I approached this subject, I always
steered automatically towards smoothing and trying to get it right.
Sometimes I wonder if I'm forcing myself, too much, to go against my
"natural" inclinations. I do think I've made a lot of progress and have
done some competent and decent paintings but am feeling there is still
so much more to explore. The drive seems to come from incorporating
the abstract sensibility I seem to have lost once I decided to paint
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I had thought this was finished a few days ago but I had
spelled out every leaf and it seemed wrong. So I set it aside
and did the study I posted yesterday before tackling it again.
I love painting this tool because of its ruby-red throat . . . it
seems like it has a heartbeat. Is it sick to anthropomorphize
a tool? That's kind of what we're all trying to do as painters:
bring life to paint? Animate the inanimate? I had once
thought of painting as self-indulgent because it doesn't really
help anyone but then Daily Paintworks offered the Help Japan
challenge and raised quite a lot of money! "Splendor in the
Mess" did sell by the way and proceeds will go to the Japanese
Thanks so much to all of you who are so supportive and take
the time to comment and encourage!
Monday, April 18, 2011
I had so much fun painting this . . . the good thing about
being willing to paint the same subject many times is that
you lose attachment to result. It's very freeing to know that
you can try again to use paint differently, emphasize different
aspects, experiment with color. Since embarking on painting
from life, I had lost my adventurous side . . . became fixated
on getting things "right" to the detriment of thinking pictorially.
I've taken down my lightbox and now set things up outside in natural
light and photograph them. I know many artists think it's a copout
to work from photographs but it's useful to me because I'm not
really interested in making pictures that look real. I'd rather make
pictures that have poignancy and presence and working from
a photo gives me a step away from "real reality." It gives me
license. This chisel was set on a warm earthy flagstone but once I
got the yellows and reds down I needed turquoise to make the reds
pop. I felt none of my usual compulsion to be faithful. There are
leaves in this setup and I had no real need to portray them . . . they
were amorphous shapes and colors, just supporting players. I am
Monday, April 11, 2011
Always misplacing those glasses . . .
This is a little larger than usual --- 8 x 10. Maybe because it's spring
and I feel like breaking out but I'm finding the need to include more
space and background in my paintings.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
I thought this was finished twice and I photographed it twice. But
each time it looked dead to me. I had rendered it fairly well, the second
time better than the first but it still didn't have the life I hoped for it.
I had read a comment from someone online who had said that in looking at a
Stuart Shils' painting, he thought Shils' had painted it with a credit card.
I wasn't happy with what I'd done so I mixed a wad of paint and gathered
it up with a credit card and scraped it vertically down the surface. For a
split second it felt actually painful to do that, to obliterate the hard work in
rendering a complicated subject. In the next second, I was trying to assess
what to do with the mess I now had on my hands and feeling no regret at all.
My thought was to put in only what was needed to make the subject recognizable.
In the end, this painting is not "it." I don't see that I'm any closer to achieving
what I'd like to see myself do---as result. I do, however, see myself as braver
in the process.
I'm shrugging here . . . I don't know . . .
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 9:26 PM
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Here's another I will need to paint again . . . it's from a photo I took
late last year of the tangerines I'd picked and set on my messy kitchen
island. One morning, the sun slanted in at a beautiful angle and bleached
the leaves on the one at right. Fortunately, my camera was right there in the
midst of bills, papers, magazines . . . This photo offered a wealth of
challenges and also illustrated them quite clearly for me. The short focal
length blurred everything behind the main subjects, bleached out the
lights and gave me more depth than I can invent in my shadow-box.
My set-ups often seem so dull whatever I do with the lighting. There was
also so much information that it forced me to paint the shapes and values,
a much-needed exercise to keep tipping my brain towards thinking that way,
but what I haven't done as well as I hoped was to capture the blurry whites
through the center. They're quite blazing in the photo but behave and recede
just like they're supposed to. When I painted them as bright as I saw them,
they totally misbehaved---something to be aware of and work at: how to
capture whites/lights in a background? This mess is pretty much an example
of "home" for me. Should I post it for the Japan Challenge?
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 2:36 PM
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
This is a revisit of a set-up I did a week ago . . . I never seem to tire
of the same subject matter. With a little time lapse, I get to compare
what I thought was important on the first go and what stands out to
me now. With this, I wanted to purposely leave information out and
see if I could stand not tinkering with it and putting it back in.
I visited Carrie Waller's wonderful blog yesterday and read that she had
been juried into a show by a judge who stated she didn't like literal art. I
had a regretful thought: I had written how impatient I am with myself when
I'm too literal but I want to make it clear that I love good realism! I'm
amazed by and admire the facility of these artists!
Posted by Lorraine Shirkus at 2:10 PM