Sunday, March 24, 2013

Deeper Into the Mystery...

"Winter Mists", watercolor,  22 x 30", VClaff 2013
Tucked into my little studio, snowstorms howling outside and 
Pasha sleeping by the stove, the forest whispers its secrets to me. 
The new paintings feel like the integration of many things - things 
I can articulate, and things I cannot. For the first time in many 
years, each painting I make teaches me as well as deepens 
the mystery. Each new piece is a threshold to new 
possibilities in both form and content. 
Its a good place to be.  

small work, untitled, VClaff 2013 
I usually start the day with a few smaller explorations, 
warming up for the larger work. I push the medium with 
these to see what is possible, and what might create 
interesting results. Some get pretty wild. 

small work, untitled, VClaff 2013
small work, untitled, VClaff 2013
After a few of these, I begin a larger piece. Below is the first 
layer of "Winter Mists", the first painting in this post. Its the 
largest size I can go at present, unless I decide to buy a 
roll of watercolor paper. I've found both the long, thin 
format and this large rectangle work for my subject.   

first layer of "Winter Mists" above
"Rising Mists" below, is a painting completed yesterday, which
has me thinking about all sorts of things and reminds me of 
a particular spot by a stream in the forest here. 

"Rising Mists", watercolor, 22 x 30", VClaff 2013
 "Winter Trees" is one I'm interested in... one that seems to 
get to the heart of the stories I'm wanting to tell. 

"White Trees", watercolor, VClaff, 2013

Pasha, as ever, is my constant companion. Having been hesitant 
about the studio when it was first built, he now seems to look forward to 
our days in there. Sometimes, when we are out running around on paths 
and roads to let off steam, he runs there and cries at the door to go in... 
disappointed that we don't.

 He's been a bit adventurous with all the snow, trudging home 
from a short forest expedition over mountains of snow in a storm. 

And the snow falls and falls... burying house and paths 
and car again and again, leaving magic in its wake. 

On the Vernal Equinox, I watched a pink-tinted sky brighten as I 
headed off on my long commute. Light snow and beautiful light 
graced the morning.  

Once out of the forest there was a different kind of light-magic, 
inspiring me the whole way down the hill. 

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Forest Paintings and an Afternoon Walk

new work, VClaff 2013

new work, VClaff 2013

new work, VClaff 2013

Having had the week off from teaching, most of my time was spent in 
the studio, painting. I'm continuing to explore the forest paintings, playing 
with scale and technique and finding the balance of subtlety and drama. I need 
to keep painting and exploring before I really know this work well. The long, thin 
format is interesting for the forest theme, I think. But I've also made some square 
and don't feel the need to limit myself to one format only.  

My studio assistant has really taken to his little bed. In fact, I seem to have to 
convince him that occasional outside jaunts are good for both of us. 



The week brought a mixture of lovely, sunny and stormy days, adding to the 
mountains of snow piled high around the house and in the driveway. I think 
the snow might have influenced the next three paintings. 

new work, VClaff 2013

new work, VClaff 2013

new work, VClaff 2013

detail, painting in progress

cropping to generate ideas

Today was warm and sunny, the snow fell from the trees in great, muffled thunks, 
water dripped from icicles and dripped endlessly on the metal roof. There was no 
resisting the call of the forest, so I buckled on snowshoes and set out with my very 
adventurous cat friend. As soon as we were in the forest, he could not contain his 
excitement and raced up a big hemlock. 

He was certainly in an exploring mood today... or maybe he took every opportunity 
to get off of the cold snow. 

We came across a very large fisher's tracks. Its wonderful to know who's been 
wandering through and also puts me on high alert when walking in the forest 
with a potential meal for a large fisher. 

Pasha is also on high alert, as soon as we get to a particular point in the forest, 
he pays close attention to every sound. 

We ended our walk on the bench overlooking the clearing as usual, though 
today the bench seat was level with the snow, so I was rather wet and somewhat
uncomfortable with my knees up. 

The view from the bench...My, what a lot of snow!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mysteries at the Forest Edge

 "Trees & Mystery"

Sketchbook study 

I knew that something a little different was stirring in the imaginal cauldron,  
so no matter how successful working on the large scale watercolors was, it 
wasn't satisfying to me. The need for a new format, a different approach
and images with a different story to tell was too powerful to ignore. But this 
also meant a frustrating, searching, not fun moment when everything came 
into question. Am I really any GOOD at this, I asked? Can I infuse my work with 
new ideas, but maintain my authenticity? What next? The only way through this 
is to keep working, exploring, making horrible work, or at least, work that doesn't 
feel right. To everyone else, the work looks absolutely fine, good, like I know
what I'm doing, but I KNOW. Its more like a recycling of ideas than a process 
that will keep me endlessly engaged, excited, inspired.

crop of above study

The key to breaking through to something new is discipline. I remember a professor 
of mine in graduate school saying that the percentage of art majors who continue 
making art long after graduating is very low. Engaging in the creative process can be incredibly rich and endlessly challenging. With no teachers around but the work itself, artists must create their own parameters and take risks in order to grow. 

 above and below - small studies

It seems as though my soul demands deeper and deeper excavation in search 
of meaningful stories to tell, and of late, the stories needed a deeper sense of
mystery and drama. I kept showing up the studio, making work that I found only 
partly satisfying until one day, there was a confluence of ideas and materials 
and a new series of work came into being. 

I began with a series of small studies in my sketchbook, combining some ideas 
I had worked with in some older ink drawings combining more dramatic bleeding,
atmospheric washes, and a long thin horizontal format. 

At the end of the day, I had a few larger watercolors that I feel are getting to 
something I need to say right now. Especially the top image on this post. 
Tomorrow - and all week as its Spring Break - I will be continuing with this work 
to see where it takes me. The most important thing is that I feel newly engaged. 

 "Forest Edge, 2", V Claff 2013

 "Forest Edge", Vclaff 2013

The pin board was filling up with large-scale watercolors, but, alas, they will come
down tomorrow to hang the new work. 

Out and about, there is still a boatload of snow, we have been getting regular
small storms, but there is also a warming trend and the frozen world is beginning 
to flow. 

Some days the world looks much like my winter branch drawings. 

Lucky mornings bring my owl neighbor to her 
perch where we meet eye to eye. 

 I continue to find the camera a very useful tool to 
see my subject with new eyes. 

... and the editing tool helps me to play with new ideas 
in the format of the new paintings. 

Pasha loves days when we head to the studio, he leads the
way with enthusiasm, stepping precisely in his earlier footprints.