outer / inner
Although I admire and respond to a lot of pure, non-referential abstract painting, my own work has never been in that camp. I've always abstracted from
a visual source.
For the past twenty years or so, my fascination has been the intersection between the outer, visual world and the inner world of memories, feelings, ideas and responses to my experiences. Almost always the outer,visual input in my work comes from landscape and nature. (You can read earlier blog posts on this topic here
The exact mixture of outer and inner elements varies with every stage of every painting, and as time goes by, the search for the perfect balance compels me as much as it did when I was just beginning. My favorite paintings are the ones in which I sense a clear connection to my outer source material, but transform it with meaning that arises from my inner vision and intent.
|the studio at Ricklundgarden|
I've recently returned from an artist residency at Ricklundgarden
, in northern Sweden (see previous May/June posts for photos and commentary.) While I was immersed in that spectacular landscape, my paintings were fairly direct references to my surroundings, especially in terms of color and texture. Ice and snow, rocks, lichen, and birch bark all contributed to images that emerged in the Ricklundgarden studio. When I am on an artist residency, and inspired by new and unique landscape, I feel I am taking visual notes as I paint. The beauty and energy in the work I do while on residency lies in its directness and spontaneity. I try to take in and respond to as many aspects of the visual landscape as I can while I'm there. Although the more thoughtful and conceptual aspects of my work are always present to some extent, they play a secondary role during those few precious weeks of soaking up the visual world and responding to it in the studio. There is a free flow to the work that I do after spending time outside soaking up the unique beauty around me. That is enough, and very satisfying. Below are two photos, one of a small work on paper and one of the ice melt on Kult Lake that inspired it.
|Kultsjon, 6"x4" mixed media on paper|
Now that I'm back in my own studio and working on larger, more developed paintings, though, a new process begins, one of filtering and mixing my visual impressions with ideas, memories and feelings. The paintings I did at Ricklundgarden are now source material themselves--my visual notes. I have them spread out on a table and sort through them often, looking, remembering, and analyzing.
Below is a small painting I did at Ricklundgarden in response to the birch trees that grew everywhere. Especially when I first arrived and the world there was smooth and white with snow, I was drawn to the complex textures, colors and lines in the bark. I played around with these in a number of small works on paper.
Now here are two larger paintings I have done since coming home. My visual source in nature is birch bark once again, but less obviously so than in the smaller work done in Sweden. What have stayed with me are the colors, and the lines that appear on the bark that look almost like drawings. As I worked with line on these paintings, I had the sense that I was drawing maps of my memories of travel in Lappland, the meandering walks and the several road trips that my friend and fellow resident artist, Janice Mason Steeves
, and I took.
So, a shift happened that I value in my more developed, larger work--a synthesis of both my inner space as well as what I see and observe became integral to the painting. When this happens, it helps me to know the painting is finished. I'm excited to see what other ideas emerge from my time in Sweden as well as how this particular thread will play out.
|Travels in Lappland #1, 40"x40" oil and mixed media on panel|
|Travels in Lappland #2, 36"x48" oil and mixed media on panel|
|the sky at 1 a.m. this morning....|
It's my last day here at Ricklundgarden
, the artist's residency in Northern Sweden where I have been living and working for the past month. Along with my friend and colleague, Janice Mason Steeves, I will fly tomorrow to Stockholm for a few days of seeing the sights, and then to Toronto on the 10th. On the 12th I'll start my drive from her place to Wisconsin and home, sweet home.
It's cold and rainy outside, and a good day for getting ready to leave. Along with packing and cleaning, yesterday we also finished writing one of our co-blog posts--an ongoing project in which we have a conversation about a particular topic. This one is about our time at Ricklundgarden
. Click here
to read our thoughts.
It's been a very productive time--I've done almost 70 paintings, most of them small and quick, others more developed. That's a lot to take home and contemplate. Here is a photo of my studio taken a few days ago from the little balcony overhead, and the other showing the view from that balcony window.
There is much to consider about this residency, and I know my views about it will continue to evolve after I leave, and gain some distance on it. The influences may be subtle, woven in with other ideas and experiences, or they may be more direct. The mystery and magic of the intuitive process is that from all that is taken in--visually, emotionally, experientially--what persists and takes on the most meaning over time cannot be predicted.