My Heaven, My Hell, My Studio
My art studio is a 12' x 14' messy affair, as you can see. Every artist dreams of the huge, open studio space with soaring windows and high ceilings, but most of us have to make do with a modest, cramped, frustrating space.
Some artists think, "If only I had a great studio, my artwork would be so much better." This assumption is merely an excuse. In fact, the opposite may be true. An artist friend of mine finally got his dream studio--the big, expansive table, white walls, surround sound stereo, track lights, the works. He couldn't wait to begin producing fantastic new art. After a couple months, he still hadn't completed one new piece. "I'm blocked," he said. "Now that I have this amazing space, everyone expects something so grand that I can't get started. Every idea seems unworthy." Lesson learned. I continued to covet but stopped complaining about my work space.
The painting in the studio photo is entitled "Monday" and will be exhibited at the Frost Art Museum as part of the South Florida Cultural Consortium Fellowship's reception on May 25, 2011. Please come to the opening reception and see this amazing museum. It is FREE and well worth the drive. I so appreciate your taking the time to read my blog. Remember to bookmark this page so you can find me again and please share the link with your friends. I'd love to hear from you, so don't be shy. Questions and comments are welcome. Take care, and whatever your situation, MAKE IT WORK.
Why Cinder block? The Birth of a Concept
For eight years I worked as a wildlife artist, painting wolves, ducks, and raptors. My career, though successful, felt restricted by the confines of the genre.
My best artist friend, Carlos Cobos, was a contemporary artist, and whenever we exchanged studio visits, I marveled at his artistic freedom. He didn't have to count primary feathers or sit in duck blinds. His artwork evolved from painting to painting, a diary of his life. I yearned to try my hand at contemporary art, so for about a year, I kept my antenna up for something new to reveal itself, something no one had done before. One evening, while sipping a gin and tonic after a hard day's painting, I leaned back and stared at the cinder block studio walls. They were spattered with years of paint; they were scarred with pits and scratches and ill-applied mortar. These walls had been with me for years, but at that moment I acknowledged them for the first time. It was as though they were saying, "Look at me." I suddenly saw them as beautiful, comprised of individual blocks, each unique. "If you could cut out a section of that wall," I remember thinking, "It would fit right in a contemporary art gallery." I had found my muse.
Basic Gray acrylic on silk 40 x 60 inches 1989
Achieving a convincing cinder block wall was a challenge that took me six months to solve. My first attempts to achieve a cement texture were pathetic, but eventually I came up with a combination of techniques, utilizing brushes, sponges, air brushes, and rubbing with satisfying results. I abandoned my beloved linen and painted on Chinese silk. Because its surface is smooth, the illusion of cement is not compromised by the texture of canvas. No computer, printing, photo transfer, silk screen, or photographic techniques are used.
The Mondrian Bathroom
I had never heard of Mondrian. I was a science teacher and wildlife artist with no formal art training or knowledge of art history. It was 1988, and I had just declared myself a contemporary artist. I had my concept—portraits of cinder block walls—but my lack of education was obvious. To overcome this deficit, I decided to teach myself art history. My method was simple: choose a famous artist, study his/her life, artwork, methods, and philosophy, then close all the books and create a painting in that style. Of course, I also wanted to integrate my cinder block walls into the new artwork. My first attempt at these appropriation paintings featured Mondrian. The working concept was: imagine finding an undiscovered Mondrian in someone's basement.
Forgotten Mondrian • 40" x 60" • acrylic on silk
For new readers unfamiliar with my work, this is a trompe l'oeil (fool-the-eye) painting, using acrylic paint on silk. Everything is painted: the Mondrian, the cinder block, and the spotlight effect. While working on this painting, I read a book entitled Subliminal Seduction, which exposed the practice of advertisers who embed subliminal suggestions into their ads. For fun, I incorporated the word SEX into the cinder block texture on the lower portion of the painting. It's supposed to work subliminally, but if you look closely, you will see the letters S-E-X. This proves that (some) artists will do almost anything to entice a viewer to better enjoy the art.
Ten years after completing the painting, I sat staring at a tiny bathroom in my newly acquired historic house in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The bathroom needed complete renovation, so the canvas was blank. The house was built in the 1920's, so I decided to introduce art deco elements throughout.
Since Mondrian was a prominent artist of the era, he was my inspiration for the half bath. The bathroom was to feature the Mondrian design in tile on the main wall, with gray tiles on two walls and a mirror on the other. The floor was painted with faux tiles in shades of gray (to reflect image of the Mondrian.)
I drew the design on graph paper to the exact scale of the wall, then purchased tile in the colors needed. Having never laid tile, I purchased a book entitled Setting Tile, borrowed a tile saw, and got to work. I'm not fishing for compliments, but you've got to admit, this bathroom is FIERCE!
So, for those of you agonizing over what color to paint the bathroom, I say, "Throw caution to the wind" and have fun. Find a source of inspiration and go for broke. Thank you for reading my blog, which I promise to post regularly. Please bookmark the page, so you can find me again. Any Facebook "News Feeds" with a link to my blog are greatly appreciated!!