Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three begun, 2 done, 1 needing layering

first day of First one

second day of first one

I would like to massively apologize for the lack of reasonable images re this process so far - but hoping to resolve the problem quickly. Our CF card is lost in space somewhere and I have to call tomorrow UPS and see why they didn't just deliver it - i didn't sign up for certified shipping, etc etc. Nevertheless, meanwhile people can laugh seeing Epic Painting Day One and Day Two. and now Day Three.

Last video shows us in wood cutting process again with killer tools and at around minute 7 I get around to showing off the work. Am the first to admit this is not particularly compelling cinematography or scriptwriting but it's just sthg 'for the record', as it were.

So - have an underpainting for Fishermen at Sea (see above) and on top of that a layer with Indian Red and various blues. I can't expect to finish this painting, or any of the indirect ones, in a day. Hence, a solution is to work on 3 at once.

I am all but done with Morning Amongst the Coniston Falls - it has taken a while - not just because of tweaking colours, but due to the size. I would in fact say I AM 'done', but I doubt I will resist the temptation to go back in there and rework things if I have a minute..... that's the beauty of oils anyhow! Part of this process for me involves FINISHING. Knowing when good enough is good enough, learning how to work within parametres of time and space and outside limits (including skill level). Part of the draw of a marathon painting process is the way it forces deadlines - efficiency - etc.

Began a third one titled View on Chapham Common (c. 1800 - 05) - this one is FINISHED. Thanks to its smallish size and the way the painting itself allowed for simple choices re. wet on wet techniques, I was able to get it produced quickly. This one has trees and very tiny fishermen - but his composition ran out on me - my canvas was too long - so I filled in the edge with some random gobbledygook. A weird ridge in the wood separated the place where TUrner ended and gobbledygook began, which was nice (unplanned).

So... am starting on a 4th. Doing so since I'm not TECHNICALLY done with 3 paintings in 3 days, but at most 2 and one well on the way. This one is allowing me to explore a new way of interacting with paint! Hope it comes out OK

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tomorrow! and general list of Turner exhibits at this time

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, tomorrow it starts, the actual painting process. Very excited! This is actually the best part of the process. And here's where other things stand:

  • Funds finally, officially available.
  • Amazon shipment of CF card + reader is on its way, thus unless something is very wrong with the camera/equipment in general, I should be able to have real pictures (although the web videos were kind of interesting
  • Supplies' ordering was minorly delayed due to Mardi Gras. I love the idea of a company's taking time off for Mardi Gras --- a direct result of being in Louisiana, I suppose
  • 2 painting surfaces prepared and ready to go. Enough of supplies and whatnot to start. Sort of wish I had my smaller brushes at hand, but you work with what you have....
  • Between now and 5 weeks from now I will be sending surveys out re. rewards fulfillment through the Kickstarter system. Why so far removed from now? Because 70% of the rewards fulfillments depends on actually completing some of the project. But part of this blogging will contain regular updates re. that, and a few fun giveaways just to keep things more entertaining.
Now, I wish to present all with a list of Turner exhibits occurring at the current time:

  • Cincinnati - The Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati, Ohio is currently exhibiting a collection of watercolor paintings by in a show titled “J.M.W. Turner: Watercolors to Books” (on view until April 15, 2012. They demonstrate how the British artist broke new artistic ground with breathtaking watercolors reproduced as etchings to illustrate travel books, poetry, and novels. Would, of course, love a chance to view this, especially since my brother is there.
  • Tate Britain - through April - Free Entry - Discover how Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) revolutionised two different kinds of image-making: watercolour and print. Colour and Line: Turner's experiments is a two-room display featuring works on paper by Turner, with a variety of experiments and interactive displays exploring his working methods and techniques.
  • Margate, Kent, UK - After 161 years, JMW Turner is back in town for the first major exhibition of his work in Margate, the seaside retreat he repeatedly visited for what he claimed were "the loveliest skies in all Europe".The exhibition, which includes 12 oil paintings and 72 dazzling watercolours, is free. The Turner Contemporary gallery has at times been overwhelmed by its own success, attracting more than 350,000 visitors before it reaches its first birthday. There are emergency plans to introduce timed tickets if the crowds become unmanageable. "It's fair to say there has been a lot of excitement in the town about this show," said director Victoria Pomery.
  • Edinburgh, Scotland (recently ended) - JMW Turner (1775–1851) was perhaps the most prolific and innovative of all British artists. Turner in January showcases thirty-eight of the artist’s watercolours, providing a remarkable overview of many of the most important aspects of Turner’s career.
    Bequeathed to the Gallery in 1899 by the distinguished collector Henry Vaughan, these outstanding works have been exhibited, as he requested, every January for the last 110 years. Vaughan wanted to limit their exposure to light so that they would be conserved; consequently, they are renowned for their excellent state of preservation.
And here's a famous yearly Contemporary Arts award given out in his name every year at Tate Britain: "At first the prize was awarded to 'the person who, in the opinion of the jury, has made the greatest contribution to art in Britain in the previous twelve months'. This meant that critics and art administrators were eligible as well as artists. [...] The prize was founded by a group called the Patrons of New Art. They were formed in 1982 to help buy new art for the Tate Gallery's collection, and to encourage wider interest in contemporary art. The Patrons wanted a name associated with great British art. They chose JMW Turner (1775–1851) partly because he had wanted to establish a prize for young artists. He also seemed appropriate because his work was controversial in his own day." Just how controversial, Turner would never have a chance to find out - Damien Hirst, the fellow who made cut-up cow cadavers an artistic feat won the award in 1995. So.... a mixed bag.

As an aside, folks might have noticed as well I have finally added a contributor's Hall of Fame to the blog sidebar. THis is the same list who will appear as contributors in the eventual catalog development of this series, sometime in the Summer/Fall. Anyone who contributed at the $10 level or above is eligible for inclusion, even those swell folks who chose to not be part of the rewards system. If you are one of those and have decided you want to appear, please leave a comment below!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wood, wood, wood

*note - suffering technical difficulties. Photo camera on the skids. Thus, am forced to take very dreadful webcam images. Also have lost some data which has made me sad. Will be receiving the tool that's supposed to fix the issue next week*

Wood acquisition has been a somewhat collective process - from Marshall to Hot Springs, raw materials have come our way, ready to be prepared. This rough cut video shows Jim explaining the process.

Also, I present first capital investments in the project:
Miter Saw - $100 through Craigslist
Circular Sander - $30 through Craigslist.
New CF card & reader - $22 through Amazon.
As well - order placed through local store FINALLY - more on that forthcoming.

As we see here, a vast collection of wood exists. Out of this 90 must emerge - but we begin with baby steps, preparing just 7 at a time.

I have chosen a specific shape for a specific painting. The first one to appear in the book is the moody Fishermen at Sea, an early work from 1796. The panel chosen for this has an actual hole right along the angle of the break in the clouds. This might be a disastrous choice, or it might (as I hope) augment the dramatic force of that sun doing away with the general darkness and causing the chiaroscuro elements of the piece.

Morning Amongst the Coniston Falls (image at right)(1798) seems so epic that I have opted for a larger-than-usual canvas. Possibly a bit too much to digest so early into the project, but the piece, to me, really calls for it.

Buttermere Lake (1798) requires the use of one of the ones I dearly wanted to experiment with: the slightly rounded cross-section of a tree trunk. The ray of light and the rolling hillsides relate well to the natural grain of the wood rings - here's one I might try with transparent gesso.

The week takes me through The Goddess of Discord Choosing the Apple of Contention in the Garden of the Hesperides (1806), which is quite a mouthful, as well as a lot to take in visually. Woods have been chosen for all, and will soon be prepped and primed.

(love this site)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Materials Questions and Acquisitions

OK, so I have spent far more time than I would have liked researching the materials needed and intended. Part of this problem has consisted of not ever really having KNOWN some technical aspects of the trade, such as the technical names of brushes, primers, gessos, etc. I have used either default materials or intuited a lot when it came time to acquire supplies - I never undertook a systematized study of the whole thing. At some level I realize I need to just base what I am to do on what I already know, but I feel that, since I am already making an investment in purchasing new supplies, I need to know what I am getting and why.

So, the first part of my process has involved brushes. Through catalog consultation and web research, I have found out the names, sizes, and functions of various brushes.

Sizes: As above illustrated, sizes range from less -than - zero to 24. The typical brush range I use (since I tend to work small) is less - than -zero to 4 or 6. However, having a few larger ones at hand facilitates many things - especially when it comes to glazing.

Types: for a good primer, here's a very basic site. I will review what has affected me most directly.

Round brushes come to a point, are round, and are the most traditional shape associated with painting. They hold a lot of fluid, but can be too soft for some work. They are also not particularly good for filling in large swaths of space, flat or bright brushes are better for that. These two also allow one to cover wide space while still maintaining a sharp outline edge. Bright brushes have shorter, often stiffer bristles, which make it difficult for them to hold paint, they can be great for texturing, however. Filberts are similar to flats and brights, but have an oval shape at the top which will soften the edge and makes for a less 'square' painting experience. Rigger brushes are great for detail and long, thin lines such as tree branches, though I find them hard to work with due to being difficult to control. Fan brushes can be fun - their unusual shape allows one to do unusual things or blend colours in a gradient. Specific detail work is also possible, though generally the shape makes it a fairly inflexible brush to use all the time. The mop has become one of my favorite kinds, especially when doing any glazing - obviously fatal for any detail work, they however have the magical ability to apply a uniform layer of paint without leaving a single brush mark.

Some new brushes I am excited to learn about are the rake, the deerfoot stippler, the dagger, the spotter, and the angular shader. In particular these last 3 are indispensable to fine detail work - that which I anticipate most doing.

The second phase has involved - of course - the paints. This has meant cataloguing every single tube of paint I have (comes to 78), checking which are viable, which are almost expired, which are duplicates, and, in general, which hues or pigments am I really lacking. This has taken the better part of a day - as did the brushes study the better part of a morning.

It allowed me to make a mini-painting on which to try.

The main thing I want to discuss re. paints is the concepts of hue, saturation, and value. Here's a short & sweet video explaining the issue, and here a more involved glossary tutorial.

In a nutshell, hue is that which we call the colour. Blue, red, etc. In its purest state - unmixed with black or white, a colour's chromacity is at its highest. Saturation is a similar idea - does the colour appear weak or strong? A highly saturated colour will look stronger, an unsaturated colour will look weak or washed out. We can think about magenta vs. pale pink to get an idea of what that means. Value relates to a hue's lightness or darkness - a lighter colour has a higher value.

Tint, tone, and shade are additionally useful concepts. A tint is a colour of lower saturation due to the addition of white. Tone is a colour modified by gray, and shade is a colour darkened by black, thus lessening its value.

My next challenge will be to ascertain which is the best sort of gesso or primer to use. I have used the standard white acrylic gesso by default- occasionally using a grey or transparent gesso for effects. However, I have found out about other primers and painting grounds which, though more expensive, seem to offer something closer to what artists have traditionally used - in addition, these grounds promise colorfastness and better permanence.

I may spend some time looking at this, though, since I do not have unlimited time or means, I may end up just using the same gesso I have for a while.

Hoping that by next writing I will have gotten around to submitting a final materials list to the supplier. Even if delayed, I have enough with me to begin on schedule, on Feb 24th.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Official Painting Day: Feb 24, 2012 & some thoughts

I have decided to begin on February 24st, a good New Moon time to begin any venture. Plus this would be the JH + AA anniversary date, which bodes well.

Not that I have not begun already - I have spent much time poring over various books, documents, so as to get a technical sense of what I am undertaking. Am also sketching out a schedule. The wood has all been found - the last difficult thing involves ordering the materials, which has involved poring over a vast, often confusing website - True Blue Art's supplier - so as to ascertain what is really essential, not just for the oil painting process, but for rewards fulfillment. The last slightly difficult thing before actively beginning will be the wood prep process which I supposedly will have little or nothing to do with.

So saying, would like to briefly share my thoughts about what I hope to capture, from an artistic perspective, in this project:

  • full, total immersion: the artistic benefits of subjecting oneself to full immersion beat almost any other attempt at skill and crafts acquisition. From instructors assigning 3 paintings a week, on top of other projects, art students come to learn the inevitable rhythm of creation. As well, Gladwell's writings give food for thought: 10,000 hours of focused practice creates a foundation for mastering any complex skill. In particular, what interests me about immersion is what happens when you reach a point of saturation (always happens - you want to throw the thing as far away as you possibly can), you find it in yourself to work through it - and come to find you've achieved a huge breakthrough, and broken through a previously unbreakable plateau.
  • absentee mentorism: in a word, I would like the experience of learning from a true master's process. Obviously JMW Turner is no longer with us - however much can be gleaned from following his process, from his first paintings which still had some of the dark atmospheric weight of El Greco works, through to those works in his last years which come to resemble Chagall. This is an artist who left more than 500 oils, 2,000 watercolours and more than 20,000 sketches to posterity - thus the surprising divergence from his earliest styles to his latest cannot surprise. By painting each work chronologically, I hope to experience in true flesh some of the stylistic processes and even psychological changes he might have undergone, leading him to his maturation as an artist.
  • daily discipline: I seek, through this project, to embrace a challenge requiring most of my time and attention, with a stated goal and time period. This project will be my version of an Iron Man marathon or NaNoWriMo or a Buddhist meditative retreat. All these differ widely in aims and results, but have a similar aim: to temper impatience and mold the temperament in service of something larger. I understand that at some point the process will seem burdensome, tiresome, and even unnecessary. Some days will bring obstacles in my way which will seemingly prevent the daily production. No matter - the obstacles must be borne. Part of what's so spectacular about tying this project to a fundraising campaign involves the stakes involved - over 60 people have hedged their bets on my ability to complete this enterprise - this will 'keep me honest', and provide that needed kick to get me going when I really really want to quit!
  • art history: I would like to learn more about this artist, about his personal life and how it intersects with his creativity, and how all of this was formed by and helped shape the larger world he inhabited in 19th century Britain. I am sure to find out that, though things are radically different in his Britain than they are in 21st century Madison County, NC, many similarities - cultural, economical, creative, etc - also exist. More than that, I would like to find out exact pointers regarding his style, habits, techniques, process, etc.

I also have serious reservations - the biggest one being an inability to come through. Branching off that big one, other little fears crop up when thinking about this project - that I have overshot my mark and that my designs are wildly impractical, that force majeure prevents the completion of this project, that 70% of it will be garbage and not worth looking at, that I will go crazy with the process, that the generous backers will come to seriously regret their generosity, etc - thousands of things. But in the end, as in life, fears must be borne as best one can and brushed aside when the time comes to work.

For today's image I submit a fun portrait our friend and local Appalachian artist, Freddie Henderson, made of me when he found my article in the local paper. Freddie's a cool and talented guy, and has overwhelmed me with wood besides! In particular these cool rounds, cross sections of trees on his property, which I MUST find a way to integrate.

Chinchester Canal - his and mine

Even before I conceived of this tremendous exercise, I had a taste of the project last summer. I can't remember why I set out to complete 3 of these, but complete them I did, within a 2-week period.

I have shown the other 2 repeatedly, in my videos/photos for this projects' promotion, but the third one, the Chinchester Canal (c. 1828) is one I kept under wraps - mainly because I was not entirely happy with how it turned out. We might consider it the red-headed stepchild of the Epic Painting Series.

Above we see his, acquisition # 560 in Turner at the Tate book - a canvas measuring 25.75 x 53, once again, considerably larger than the one I came up with. According to Wikipedia, George Wyndham, 3rd Earl of Egremont commissioned this maritime scene which some say depicts the atmospheric ash from the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia in its use of brilliant colours.

When I first set to paint it, I did not make a detailed study of the technique employed. I decided that most likely an indirect painting technique - where a glaze dilutes the paint, allowing for multiple layers to provide a realistic, multidimensional look - was responsible for a lot of what appeared. Whether true or not, I was not 100% satisfied with my attempt - possibly I would need more layers. Possibly I blundered with those trees at the left. After looking at it one more time, I come to believe I may just need to add another layer of blue - definitely the far-off hills require it.

Turner used many techniques to finish his works, something which I plan to go into further along. According to this article, one of his trademark flourishes was.... finger painting! Wow... I would love to experiment with that. Something about throwing oneself into his painting style is fundamentally appealing, even if the thought of oil on my hands is not.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Preparation - hunting & gathering

What have I been up to the past few days since the successful launching of my campaign? On the one hand, tending to other important matters re. life in general and this project in particular - some of that has included what I am coming to share today.

Jim is an inveterate lover of wood. All sorts of wooden objects already exist in our lives - a lot of them interesting shapes not appropriate for the project, but yes useful for one of his projects, homily sticks & ponder panels.

Nevertheless, we have found many panels and other wood objects amid our own stash of 'treasures'. We have also gone on walks through the Ivy River trail and the Laurel River in search of great canvases - we're pretty sure we have enough raw materials to begin our process.

However (as can be seen here) finding wood is only part of the battle!

What remains is the need to
  1. clean and de-bug them (yes, nature at work!)

  2. cut them down to size

  3. sand the actual wood itself

  4. gesso them - a process involving gesso, waiting for it to dry, gessoing again, sanding down what's been gessoed, then applying a new layer

  5. Amid discussions with the parties involved, we have decided to prepare 'canvases' on a weekly schedule. My associate for the project thinks he can get 6 of them to me before the beginning of the week, which would allow me to grab them and get to work.

    An additional interesting tidbit comes re. the choices for sizes. When I first conceived of this project (and came up with the three prototypes) I was planning on making all of these on small pieces of wood - not much more than 6in x 12in in size. However, as I study the images on the book, I have come to see some of them as requiring a bigger canvas - some of them because they originally were in huge canvases, others because the level of detail demands a bigger surface and, paradoxically, some of them prove so simple and impressionistic that I fear that any artistic merit would be lost in a smallish display.

    This image, from around 1840 titled "Sun Setting Over a Lake", shows some of the trademarks of his later work - a translucent use of light and the Impressionistic consciousness that no doubt influenced or informed the work of later Impressionists in France and elsewhere. It measures 35in x 48in, thus is essentially a large piece - but more importantly to me, how to reproduce it on wood without completely losing any pictorial or artistic merit? This is a difficult style to replicate - even more so than the earlier pieces where the pictorial nature of boats and oceans and whatnot carry the piece through.

    I feel like a larger canvas would at least lend greater meaning to this piece, as well as a purposefully textured piece of wood - i would gesso and sand it lightly so that some of the shapes would shine through.

    This is a fundamental reason for undertaking this project, though... to ask myself these questions from a painterly and historical perspective, to remain faithful to what the artist sought to produce, as well as to find a way to make the pieces compelling in their own right. By asking and answering these questions, through a long-term unrelenting process, I have faith I will find a new relationship with painting in general and this artist (and his many guises) in particular.

Saturday, February 4, 2012


I wanted my first post to show the actual screenshots showing this one as a successfully funded campaign.

In the next few days I will have to get very organized to be able to accomplish all the things mentioned (as well as general lifestyle tasks) all in as best a way as I can. I will need to

  • take inventory of what's needed
  • come up with an action plan regarding gathering/preparing wood for preparation - IE speak to the neighbor about possible collaboration
  • set up a work space (issues - such as lighting, permanence of position, space required are all things to take into account)
  • take inventory of backers so as to provide the appropriate gifts (including the 2 that mailed contributions due to not wanting to deal with the site) - this includes subscribing them to this blog since frequent updates are part of the package deal
  • start where I can till the funds arrive (a 2 week wait from the day the campaign was deemed successful, and
  • paint!

I also have to give a shout-out to my dear mother who went in there and PUSHED the thing to everyone imaginable right when the campaign was more than 75% done and only 25% funded. Her efforts made the pledges double, which gave me the impetus to go after the rest.

I also wanted to note that at one point, unbeknownst to me, my project actually appeared as 'most popular' in its category for a full week. That was fun, and definitely a first for me as well!

And, of course, I cannot forget the wonderful friends and strangers who saw fit to donate to my artistic process. I hope I will not let you down. The trust you have put in me and my process is immense.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Introductory Post

Am creating this post in anticipation of successfully funding a Kickstarter campaign titled '90 Paintings in 90 Days' AKA Epic Painting Project.


JMW Turner has always stirred my soul and fired my muse. Since relocating to Appalachian North Carolina, the thought of doing something simultaneously to honor and reconfigure Turner’s brilliance has become something of an obsession.

Finally my mother and my husband ganged up on me. Their challenge: “Do something with this; go to Kickstarter, and plead with the world for help in achieving your vision.” So here I am.
I intend to update this blog at least 3 times a week, if not once a day, so as to document this epic process. Some weeks I may opt to video blog and others write - in any event, I do intend to document this challenging and rewarding process, the outcome of which will be 90 Paintings in 90 Days.