I go to bed and wake up thinking about what I want to paint,I love the prospect of things to come in the form of new lines and marks in layers of effort and pigment. There is a constant tug and pull in my psyche that beckons me to paint the ideas that twirl like airborne whirligigs in my head. When the timing is right these ideas are snagged and painted with great ease and much triumph. Then there are the thoughts and ideas that get so deeply embedded in my mind that I find they have to be literally worked out on canvas in stages of deep thought and sometimes anguish. These are the paintings that teach me the most about myself and my abilitiy to handle the unknown and to blaze new trails on my journey. The idea of working in series appeals to me for this reason; there are ideas that demand to be put down in many ways and analyzed from many angles to find their true meaning. There is something in my makeup that makes me revisit ideas in my work, almost like a song that hangs in your mind and transports you to another time and place in your life. There are often symbols or shapes that appear and reappear in many of my pieces often representing similar thoughts or feelings about my subjects or their place in time. The mystery of art for me is the wonder of how I find endless fascination in one provocative subject and not in another subject.
I truly admire the work of representational artists. They have the information in front of them and their task is solidly there, make it appear as close to what it is as possible. I cannot stop and feel the painting is complete at this point I feel the urge to uncover the unseen the encrypted meanings in the everyday objects and often mundane moments in life. Art for me is the discovery of something that either does not exist or that forces me to think deeply about the piece and the thoughts of the artist that created the art. The slightly rough edged, gritty, slightly strange works are the paintings that seem to lure me in, with the promise of a mind adventure rather than a representation.
I work mainly in watercolor and water media, but lately I have revisited oil paints in an effort to keep my self current and comfortable in many mediums . I find slow drying oil paints allow me to stop and start the painting process and it enables me to work on several paintings at one time giving me access to work in a series simultaneously and in various stages of finish. I feel this is a form of multitasking in my art and a true gesture of the time in which we live now. Multitasking can be advantageous and it can be a hinder for me. I have found some paintings fall off of my brush while others lie deeply hidden in the ferrules and refuse to come out until many layers of paint have been brushed down and new textures formed. The ritual motion of over painting areas and the removing of layers is often a time of reflection as well as a method of building confidence in my process, allowing me the opportunity of the open door of change. The painting for this month’s blog will be an oil painting that went through many stages before it was in a stage that could be considered a frame worthy state.
Stage one: the thought process
This series is one I named the Medusa Complexities. I have a deep love of hats and have often wondered what the history of that love might actually be based on. I thought about it and decided one reason I like hats is that I feel a strange comfort in them, perhaps it is the anonymity of wearing a hat that gives me the feeling. This series has been in the works for many years as I have stacks of figures that have a common denominator, all of the figures wear hats or have shapes on their heads that shade their eyes, thus the symbolic relationship to Medusa seems apropos. Medusa and her story bring to mind the thoughts of strange head coverings, the female form, and the mystery of and sexuality and the entrapment. Most if not all of my figures have their eyes either covered or in shadow yet another tie to Medusa. I believe Medusa or the story of Medusa parallels many aspects of the human condition and I feel strongly about our relationships to each other, so this seems like a good series to work on this summer. Let’s move to Stage Two…hurry before I get going again on my theory of relationships and human conditions!
Remembering Peace by Cathy Hegman
Stage Two: Oil paint for the medium is chosen
I chose to work in oil paint on canvas as I have been working with oil washes and am drawn to the similarity to watercolor and to acrylic. I over paint the washes sometimes completely, but they give me the freedom to explore the medium and to explore the drawing process. The washes work as a really nice lead in dance to the painting process for me. I do my gesture drawing in an oil wash. I make my wash with tube oil paint, mineral spirits, and liquin. The mixture is comprised of a small dab of oil paint, a heavy amount of liquin but enough mineral spirits to thin it down to the fluid consistency of a liquid acrylic paint. This is following a rule of fat over lean paint as well as giving me the ability to see the canvas through the paint in places and thus the ability to juxtapose the opaque thick paint with thin washes in my work. I also keep a sprayer of mineral spirits on hand, and often use it to spritz the drawing to make it drip and run down and around the canvas. I call this violating the paint, and I find a strange comfort in paint that is violated or forced to perform in an adverse or new way that is not traditional. This is my first grasp at capturing the emotion I am after, it is my blueprint of sorts.
Stage Three: Let the Games begin
I always fall deeply in love with the gesture drawing. The beginning stages of a painting are the best for me, they are ripe with ideas and changes to be made, the fun starts at this point. Every stroke is one that will be a building block either one to build up or tear down. I believe the knowledge that a piece is not finished or is heading down the wrong path is often as important as banging out pieces of art that are successful. Mistakes are the best forms of learning in a process. I begin by laying on the paint in layers of oil paint laced with liquin to hasten the drying time, losing the original gesture drawing marks in places and retaining it in others. I find that most of the oil pigmented paints will dry overnight to a state that can be worked over in more layers or scraped into for texture. I like red and it works in this piece as a reminder of some of the gesture that might be lost in the layers. I like to reinforce strokes with complimentary hues to give them more impact. At this point I could have painted them in any hue as they will most likely only appear in parts if at all in the finished piece. We are still having fun….You might note that I extended the line from the hat to the width of the page connecting my figure to the sides and top of the page, I did this give more stability to the figure at this point.
I have decided the hand and nest are just too cliche for me and that the face needs to be more intimate with the viewer. I like the bird shape symbolizing peace to be hovering next to the figure, that part feels copacetic to me. I am working on connecting them in the space, the first attempt is with barbed wire, which I love to use as it conjures up so many thoughts about the barbs and the boundaries etc. I am repeating the bird wing shape in the figure’s hat for repetition sake and to me this is working. Okay at this point I am still allowing sharp objects to be out in the studio there is still hope although this stage is a bit stilted and not what I am after for this painting.
Remember the statement about how every stroke is a building block, here is the example of many building blocks, some of which will be layered over but the layering will give me and even richer tactile surface with the oil paint. I work all over the painting making adjustments in the face, bird, and the figure shape etc. at this stage. I also added the pearls at this point, they will be in the piece somewhere and possibly here but I am now deciding I am not happy with the background hue and texture, so they might disappear and reappear later. I added the big blocks to link the figure to the bird on another plane of the painting but they don’t feel quite right to me, so I will think and work on them in the following stages as well.
I truly hate to leave this at this state but it is late. I will post this blog and continue on this painting in a follow up blog in the next day or so. If you are not bored completely at this point, check my next blog to see the rest of the story……
Thank you for reading my blog and I hope that it helps you in your art journey and that you in turn will share your work with others.
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