A Gathering of Artists

I just returned from an artist potluck party.  Well, not exactly a party… not sure what to call it… a gathering sounds good.  Some very nice artsy folk down the road from me put together a once a year “gathering” at their place whereby artists and craftspeople can hang out for the day, eat good food, chit chat and do what they do.  I’ve been invited before, but this is the first time I actually went.

I generally feel that getting together a group of artists and artisans are like herding cats.  Sure, it can be done, but do you really want to?  Cats don’t really “gang together”.  Well, maybe lions do, but I’m thinking of domestic kitties… the kind that tolerate each other and are nice enough so long as they have a full bowl of kibble.  Since the lure of food works for hungry cats, it’s an effective way to assemble a group of artists.

Yeah, I know some artists are very sociable and I am painting with broad strokes here, but that’s the kind of artist I am… social sometimes and more of a dog lover than a cat person.  Anyway, off I trooped to the event, looking for a social connection, a good meal and perhaps a spark of inspiration.  For me, art is more of a solitary endeavor but I was game so I packed up some supplies and drove over.

After I arrived and made all the necessary pleasantries, I tucked myself in a corner of the property and got down to work. Most of the other guests were having a group spin… weavers and knitters and workers of wool.  They all seemed to know each other and were happily chatting so I found a shady spot away from the chorus to explore a new idea that had graced my doorstep recently.

It’s very simple… and familiar.  We see it every day, even though we don’t know it by name.  Fractal Geometry. It comes down to this: Z=Z squared +C.  What that means is simplified repetition of design, or in fractal terms: a self similar pattern. This has got to be the coolest bit of mathematics I have come across and I am on a mission to purposefully blend my art with fractals.  I could probably go on about this for awhile, but really, the studio is calling and I have GOT to get in there and put this stuff on some canvas.   Here’s a Wiki link if you want some general knowledge on the subject  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal of course, there is TONS more about fractals on the internet, but Wikipedia is a good place to start.

Fractals are a part of nature, it’s the repetitive design we see in trees, ferns, textures, coastlines, blood vessels, musculature… it’s everywhere and it is awesome.  They call it the “thumbprint of god” which is poetic and mind expanding.  Whatever it is, I’m feeling very dazzled by the beauty of this mathematical concept.

I’ve unwittingly used this concept in some of my other art.  The Orange Swirls are loosely fractal in nature, but it’s there nonetheless.

Orange Swirls Oil on raw Canvas 36"x48"

Orange Swirls
Oil on raw Canvas


But now I am purposefully exploring with just a little more knowledge.  Looking forward to the results, so back to work for me.  For now, here’s the sketch I came up with at the Artist’s Gathering:


My first official fractal.  This is an idea that needs exploring.

My first official fractal. This is an idea that needs exploring.

A Hundred Reds

I recently aquired a commission to paint a paint.  A “paint” is  a multi-colored horse, usually with large white and brown splotches.  They can be black and white like holstein cows or even palomino and white but generally they are brown and white. Like Tonto’s horse in the Lone Ranger.  A popular color, the term “paint” is used for Quarter horses, a particular breed of horse.  Other breeds of splotched horses are called pintos.  All charming nomenclature aside, this particular paint horse was part white and part bay, a reddish brown color with lots of variation.

No where in the palette of colors available to artists is the color, Bay.  And if one ever looks closely at this horse color, one will find a shade of red, a shade of brown, a shade of blackish brown, a shade of mahogany, etc, etc.  And one  had better have an arsenal of browns at one’s disposal as well as some mad mixing skills.

I was given a photo of the subject, an iffy quality digital print.  Chetoh is a nice looking boy with good color and a kind eye.  The picture was low in pixels, but what it lacked in clarity, it made up in posture.  The pose of Chetoh was perfect and I didn’t have to do anything to change his position.

I sketched him out and outlined his shape with orange.  This is a technique I have been doing for some time now and I like to leave a little of the outline peeking through my final layers.  It’s like an aura and adds a little oomph to the final piece.  I like it, and that’s the important part.

I took stock of my browns and reds and dabbed out 4 kinds of browns (sienna and umber, both burnt and raw) two red oxides, black, white and my go to blender: naples yellow.  I love that color… it’s my butter.  I rounded out my palette with cerulean,thalo and ultramarine blue.  And yes, I used ALL these colors to make this bay horse look like a bay horse.  They are layered, blended, adjacent, glazed and somewhere in some version became Chetoh’s highlights, midrange and shadows.

cheeto 001

Getting the colors in their proper place by referencing his mug shot.

I don’t know what the math looks like when you take 12 colors and mix them with each other one at a time and/or in combinations with the rest, but I know it’s quite a lot.  It felt like a hundred reds; but I really don’t know since I try not to think about it.  When painting, I try not to think at all.  I just look, compare and choose. It’s judgement call after judgement call… too light, too blue, too this, too that.  Add, subtract, scrub, twist, smooth out, swoop up.

Working on his chest and mane.  Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Working on his chest and mane. Painting white on a white canvas is always fun.

Once he came together, I roughed in the background.  This took me longer than I had expected.  I made the sky very light at first, but when I stood back to look at the composition, his white blaze didn’t stand out like I wanted.  A heavier dose of Ultramarine was pressed into service and I popped in a few clouds for good measure.  The final result, an elegant Chetoh on a windswept hill.


Chetoh the Paint Horse

Why would a chair need wings?

When an idea comes at you from the great beyond, you should probably listen to it.  Unless however you are a sociopathic misfit with murder on your mind, then by all means don’t you be listening to those voices!!  But for an artist, true inspiration is a cool thing, so here I am following up on the Winged Chair idea.  Once I had finished the first wing, the second one posed a slight problem.

Wing One is done but for the embellishments.

Wing One is done but for the embellishments.

I took some time to ponder how to cut the fabric feathers so wing two would be an identical mirror image.  I wasn’t concerned about perfect… it just had to look like a mirror image.  Nothing in nature is absolutely perfectly symmetrical.  I solved this small problem by laying out tracing paper, tracing the shapes, then flipping over the paper onto the second wing.  I could then cut out similar feather shapes and push them into place by using the traced paper as a guideline.

Tracing the feathers.

Tracing the feathers.

Lots of gluing, cutting, sticking and various active verbs took over and before I knew it, we were at the point of  “almost done”.  I took some time off for good behavior and other soul searching activities before returning to the studio where the wings awaited my finishing touches.

The columbines are blooming!

The columbines are blooming!

I pretty much solved all the issues, but still faced a couple of decisions.  So, to play with some ideas, I cut out extra feathers and applied paint and other embellishments to try them on for size.  I have a whole lot of metallic paints that I like to get out and wish I could find a use for, so those were employed in the search for how much is too much?

Gold paints, blue metallic inks and a desire to bling it out!!

Gold paints, blue metallic inks and a desire to bling it out!!

Oh yeah!  Liking the blue ink.

Oh yeah! Liking the blue ink.

Next on the agenda was the chair itself.  Painted or not painted?  Hmmmm.

Chair as is.  Too ordinary.

Chair as is. Too ordinary.


The chair itself was pretty paint splotched and gummed up, so I got into a little scraping and sanding before the final paint job.  I painted the back of the wings silver and after they dried, I used a couple of clamps to try on the wings and help me decide if painting the chair was where I wanted to go next.



Chair seems to disappear into the wings.

Chair seems to disappear into the wings.

I resumed sanding since the chair still looked like a Goodwill find.  Which it was, but now it is art!  As I was slogging through the doldrums of the creative process I began to think about what my answer to the big question would be.  Why would a chair need wings?

Wings are for flying.  If you are a bird or a plane.  They are for swimming if you are a penguin.  But chairs don’t swim… unless they are on a boat.  By that logic, they don’t fly, unless they are on a plane.  Since these are obviously imaginative wings,  they must be for your imagination!  If you are sitting in a chair and need to escape, but also need to remain seated, your imagination is the thing that is going to fly you the hell out of there.

Which takes me back to grade school.  I used to be a good little student.  And then I wasn’t.  I was always the youngest in the class as my birthday was late in the year and in those days,  they let your parents enroll you in kindergarten if you were going to turn 5 before the Christmas holiday.  As a teacher and a parent, I can’t imagine my 4 year old going off to school, real school… but there I was,  a half year behind my peers at best, a year or more behind them at the worst.  At some point it all caught up to me and when I wasn’t developmentally able to understand certain concepts because of my age, I fell behind.

I don’t recall caring much about my slipping GPA, instead my mind took me other places and I day dreamed my way through 3rd, 4th and 5th grade. There were years where my report card stated unequivocally that I’d be a better student if I wasn’t daydreaming all the time. But I didn’t see it that way.  Day dreaming was a good use of my time if I couldn’t understand why 3 from 5 was 2.  Wasn’t 3 from 5… uh, 3?  I actually used to think that the little shaded box at the end of the equation held the answer to the problem.  All you had to do was count the shaded lines.  That’s how far away I was from the concept of subtraction.  It is here I most likely developed a curious belief that I couldn’t do math.

I think that’s probably the time I needed a chair with wings in my life.  Because I sure as hell was sitting in one whether you could see it or not.

A Winged Chair can transport you to another planet, another dimension, another body.  If you needed a fantasy escape, a winged chair could take you there.  I may have to use it to post blogs… we’ll see if the actual manifestation of the concept ( ideas taking flight) will elevate the activity of tapping keys on a laptop into something amazing.

I’ll let you know how it all works out.  But for now… here is where we stand.  Or sit.  It’s something grander than an old school chair that’s for sure!

Winged Chair 54" x 62" Mixed Medium: wood, paint, fabric.

Winged Chair
54″ x 62″
Mixed Medium: wood, paint, fabric.