September 24, 2006

About Those Grasses

Aha! An opportunity to re-run an old "American Artist" article that pretty much explains what was going on during the 'grass years'. Scroll down for readable text, and the demo enlarges with a click.

I was often asked how long it took to paint a full sheet (22x30) watercolor, but since I usually had a half dozen in progress at one stage or another, it was hard to tell. When I had to do a demo for this article, photographing as I went, I kept track of the hours and found that I'd worked appx 40 hours on it. But they would often take months to finish as I propped them around the house and studio, waiting for some kind of subconscious enlightenment to tell me what was weak or needed fixing.

I was working with a subject I was magnetically drawn to, in a color (green) that I had little love for. So another challenge was to create the essence of a thriving plant that actually had very little real green in it. Hence the strange purples and oranges that weave through the composition. Amazing the variations one can make with green. I once had a university art prof tell me she'd like to show her students my work just to impress on them how varied green can be. It was wine-time talk, but I appreciated it none the less. Another time, a juror for a national show, on awarding the painting, said she'd never view pampas grass the same way again. Heady compliments for this emerging artist with little formal training.

And yes... it did get boring after awhile... but with good music and deep thoughts, time would pass quickly enough. A visiting artist at the art colony I frequented (another post, another time) laughed as he drew an imaginary line around my closet shaped space where I sat in the wide open pavilion, elbows pinned to my side, hunched over my painting. That might have been the beginning of the end of that phase of my art life... I began to look at myself from outside that small space and realized I needed to grow and expand.

Other elongated leaf shapes; palms, bamboo, iris and daylily, got the same treatment to a lesser extent. I had done flowers and quickly realized that wasn't where the real magic was... at least not for me. There were many metaphors to choose from in the tangle of old and new leaves, I liked to reference the mix of generations, which my own family was dealing with. We had two mothers in our care, if not in our home, adult kids in their yo-yo years, and grand children beginning to make their appearance. An entanglement if ever there was one!


Jacie said...

As Jacie read about Karens painting grasses and as I looked at this work in various stages my mouth began to drop from its hinge, and I am in awe! Such beauty to dive into and sleep amongst the grasses, nestled and safe.

Rivited by your work, love from Fredericton, New Brunswick and hanging in there!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I needed that.

KJ said...

The awe is mutual, Jacie... you paint like you've been at it for decades. My jaw dropped when you revealed otherwise. Guston serves you well ;-)

Annette said...

Interesting to get your viewpoint about the grasses -- the challenges of color, the hours of concentration and even the sense of the entanglement of the lives of the women in your life! I can see why they were so fascinating for you. BTW, flowers are the magic for me.

Ed Maskevich said...

Strange purples and oranges??? I didn't realize that purples and oranges were strange (laughing).