Surfacing 2.1 by Linda Ryan (C) 2019 all rights reserved
Surfacing 2.2 by Linda Ryan (C) 2019 all rights reserved
Lionhead Rock (Cove #1) by Linda Ryan (C) 2019 all rights reserved
Griphon Rock by Linda Ryan (C) 2019 all rights reserved
Play Misty 1 by Linda Ryan (C) 2019 all rights reserved
Play Misty 2 by Linda Ryan (C) 2019 all rights reserved
The Fog (Spivey Pt. 2)
Blake’s Gold (Spivey Pt. 1)
Above Works are from Surfacing, an Artist’s Journey
I’ve been working on this solo show for a long time, and am happy to say that it’s now hanging at the Gallery at Glendeven Inn & Lodge, Mendocino now through May 15, 2019.
Happy, and relieved. Creating a meaningful show that hangs together well is sort of like giving birth. Less painful, but anxiety-provoking. I was ready to be done with anxiousness. And then another atmospheric river hit the West Coast.
By the time we packed up for the trip, they were evacuating Guerneville and Monte Rio, beloved little towns on the Russian River, and strange weather was creating havoc all over Northern California. Crazy amounts of rain. Both Highways to the Coast off of northern 101 were closed due to flooding. I am told that this is not unusual for Highway 128 when the Navarro is full and the tide is high, but they were turning people away even at Highway 20, a more northerly route we rarely take but that has always been an alternate. One of my Mendocino friends said that the day we were traveling up, the winding road through Comptche that is always the back route for locals had been plagued with mudslides and trees falling from the sodden hills. She said, and I quote, “you’d be crazy to drive up here today”.
Geez. That was enough for me. I love Mendocino, but I must say I am not fond of these highways where the winding rarely ends, even in good weather. After almost 7 months of living there and coming back to Livermore at least once a month, I can drive them without whiteknuckling it all the way, but give me a threat of a tree landing on us with the Explorer loaded with 21 paintings representing over four years of dedicated experimentation, study and intense work and the personal safety of my partner and me and, well…
My partner, Duane, is so understanding and a great travel companion. The radio didn’t help, and neither did the Maps app on my iPhone. Weturned around and then turned back north first on the rain drenched Freeway 80 Berkeley and started to head home again after Santa Rosa. Then, I checked the weather again for the next day and it looked like it might really clear up – and he looked at me and said, hey, we are so close, let’s head up to Cloverdale and get a motel room and try again tomorrow.
We did, and the rain and even the fog suspended over 128 began to clear by 8:30 am the next morning. The drive was beautiful, as it always is – oak woodlands, lovely Anderson Valley, the ethereal redwoods, and finally the sea – but disconcerting, still. Small mudslides, too many to count. Lots of standing water, some flowing over the roads still, streams pushed to their limits, mostly small downed trees chainsawed in half and tossed to the side of the road (Nancy Puder, a good friend that has lived in the area since the 70’s, tells me that locals drive these roads with chainsaws in the back during periods of heavy rains).
Yes, we need the rain. Yes, I’m thankful this won’t be a drought year. It would be nice, though, if it would come down a bit more sporadically.
We got to lovely Glendeven early, in time to have coffee and biscotti in the Farmhouse and watch the sea rolling in to Van Damme Beach and the llamas kicking about and the chickens doing their chickeny things while gearing up to lay Glendeven’s free-range eggs. It was sunny and almost warm. When it was time to hang, Nancy Puder joined us and we put the show up in record time. Having capable Duane on my team is mandatory; having Nancy and her designer eye join in created one of those magical art hanging days where it all just seemed to work. Some people are just easy to hang with in more ways than one.
Oh yeah, about the show! Surfacing, An Artist’s Journey, explores the progression of the pour paintings up from underwater – the reef and coral pieces I painted previously – and exhibits the still-evolving coastal rock formations and the sea battering them which were my struggle and goal during my term as Artist in Residence 2017-18 at the Mendocino Art Center. There’s more to it than that; I’m working on a blog about how they evolved and what happened to me during that program (now that I finally understand it), but this is getting really long and I felt that the journey to actually just hang the show was part of gestating these works and the bringing them up for viewing was part of the journey’s story.
So. The coastal rocks are joined by several Underwater works in this exhibit. Standing in the middle of the gallery, it’s as if you feel the undulation of the movement of water, like you are in the Pacific but oddly not cold. Peaceful. At one with yourself and your evolutionary journey. Where you came from, where you are now, and where you are going become one.
That may be taking it too far. Sort of.
The paintings look great hung together. Yes, I said that. Those who know me personally know that while I’m not really a braggart (or at least I think I’m not, how does one know for sure?), I am far from humble – at least about painting. It’s a good show, if I do say so myself. Pour painting taken to a different level, all painted with a reverence for our ocean and copious amounts of that art explorer thing I think I might be addicted to that I find so fascinating with this medium.
Plus it’s just so cool to see them dry, go from milky to glasslike ahh-ness. I wish you could see that.
Or see the show. They are so much better in person.
About Glendeven Inn & Lodge
This place is beyond charming, a serene getaway in an amazing setting. They earn the accolades they’ve gotten from so many magazines with attention to detail and caring for their guests, so much so that they have been expanding and purchasing neighboring property to make the experience available to even more.
Even their website is fun to explore. They give each guest a packet of chickenfeed so that they can become acquainted with the hens that will lay their breakfast eggs! And, you can participate in llama feeding!!!
Studies and demo artworks are the steps we take along our journey.
Most artists I know try out new methods, new pigment combinations, new ways of doing things on less expensive supports. It’s just more freeing to play on something that costs a fraction of a “real” painting. It’s also really, really liberating to free yourself from the more serious aspects of art making and composition – you’ve built that into the experience by using something different than you use for professional works. You are playing and you know it through the whole experience. This what I do when I do studies.
It’s similar, but different, for paintings I do while demonstrating, either for a video (rarely) or in person at an open studio or during one of my classes. Any artist that demonstrates has got to know the tension of performing – and sometimes the exhilaration of nailing it, of doing a really cool flippin’ painting while under scrutiny, sometimes in only 15 minutes.
And sometimes these works take you somewhere you hadn’t expected and change the “real” work you do next. Art is like that. It’s one of the things I love about this profession. Art is a conversation, even if the conversation you are having is with yourself. It’s a journey, and sometimes without a destination in mind you can discover a new path.
Sometimes studies and demos should remain just a reminder of a personal exploration – something you thought was interesting and should be explored. Sometimes they aren’t to be shown to anyone other than the artist.
And sometimes, sometimes, once in a while, they inform the next works – but, do you keep them forever? When you are done looking and absorbing them, then what?
For me, I can’t sell them at a gallery. These aren’t my serious works, they aren’t on expensive panels, they are … play … and part of where I am going.
I guess I was lucky to have created a bunch that have given me what I needed and now their task is completed. I got an okay from my gallery to let them go at demo prices. I’m gonna do that, let the good ones out of the boxes they’ve been stored in, let them go play on someone else’s walls. Be free, as they helped me to be.
I woke up early again, but instead of rushing down to the studio to see how the paintings dried, I wrapped up in a shawl and sat on my landing to watch the sky lighten, my first coffee of the day warm in my hands.
I can hear crashing waves from the north Headlands and from the south, where the Bay meets Big River. There are songbirds greeting the morning, rumblings from the ravens, frog song to the south, and occasionally a seagull cries in the distance. There is an occasional car – it’s not quite tourist season, yet, so human noises are wonderfully quiet on weekday mornings.
Rather than try to explain it in words, I thought I’d just use this to answer some questions raised by potential attendees for the Pour Party Events and future classes – this is usually the size we use in Pour Parties or Basics Classes –
I’m writing this after just coming in from a tromp around the headlands as the sun went down, accompanied by a perfect blanket of fog and mist.
On clear days, there is a constant stream of sunset revelers past my studio doors, straight down Little Lake Street to the headlands. This is a great place to watch the show, with a clear view and a complement of waves thundering against the bluffs below your feet.
Did I say that it’s right down the street from my house? Yup.
I have come to prefer the misty, almost eerie sunsets, at least here at the bluffs. And it’s not just that there are less people about, although that’s part of it. It’s gentler, not blindingly bright, and full of surprise sunrays peeking through and about the clouds and washing them with swaths of color and metallic golds and coppers playing about the fog belt, the clouds…
As I write this, my nose and feet are just about thawed, and after I close this, I’m heading back downstairs to the studio to mix up pouring medium and this new palette of pigments I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve been mixing and pouring color swatches on mylar since I got back after the extended family holiday, trying for a more Mendocino Northern Pacific Ocean feel while still retaining a lot of the transparency that I love.
I think I’m close enough to just go try it out. 21sheets so far. 54 color combinations.
Middle of the image, toward the top? See the high school track there? I’m just below it. The village is really only a few streets wide, and the Mendocino Art Center played a huge – no, not just huge, a vital part in revitalizing the town. I’m so happy to be a part of it.
And, to be part of the amazing place we are in. When the ocean is really revving up, I can hear waves from all three sides – the most often from the Mendocino Bay, toward the bottom (south). The waves get confused there, and pound in from several directions. But, when the surf’s really high, the loudest boom is to the west (towards the left, here). They pound and pound against the bluffs and that little inlet, where there’s a bit of a cavern that echoes the sound, all the way to my studio.
I’m so privileged to be here, to be an Artist in Residence.
You may be surprised by that thought, if you’ve read my blog about the anxieties of my first month. They seem so distant, now. I’m not saying it isn’t often still challenging and weirdly lonely, considering that I’ve always valued time alone – but I’ve turned my focus to challenging myself. And I know, I haven’t shared much of the experience, yet. Even a few lines from my journal would have been nice, like – Wow, when the mist clears, the stars are so bright! or – what an amazing sunset. That would have been nice. It turns out that I really needed to be inward with it before I shared. And I’ve been inward.
So here is what I’m doing: The Intent of my Residence program here, as I put it in my Initial AIR Presentation in the beginning of October, is to bring my work above the surface and to paint about the experience of Mendocino.
I had to experience it first. Apparently without diluting it by putting too much of it on Social Media. There’s something about sharing … don’t get me wrong, I love to share. But when something important is happening to you? I found I had to enclose myself with it, for a while. Get it inside before I give it away. Let it have weight.
So this is what I’ve been doing. Trudging around a lot by the Headlands, on the beaches, working to understand sea foam and imbed the visuals of the forever booming and receding ocean as it hits in multiple directions around the hundreds of rock formations and bluffs. And the work is really starting to happen. Starting to get a feel for layers of rocks and water and roiling kelp beds and exploring new combinations of transparent paints to form the base of a palette that works with this newish medium that is always a fascination to me.
And, in keeping with the AIR Presentation, for a while I began working to capture the iridescent wings of the hundreds of magnificent Ravens in the area.
But that’s gotten a bit sidetracked. It seems any extra painting I need to do is either pure nonobjective abstract, or abstracts about the California wildfires instead. I try not to do the fires, but I find myself with a bottle of burnt orange in one hand and quinacridone gold in the other, and I have to succumb to the urge, yet again, and mix a good pour amount up. I don’t think these are for sale, or will be anytime soon, or at least perhaps I can figure out how to also help the fire victims with them. Especially if they keep coming.
And, it finally occurred to me, I need to figure out a way to do the roads in and out of town. This is such a part of my experience there – anyone’s experience, really. It’s worth it to get there, but I have yet to make that drive without sweaty hands. Almost, the last time. Almost.
Mostly, I’m challenging myself to think about my experiences here (and getting here), and be here in the moment. Then, get myself into the studio and prep panels and mix up the paint and be ready.
And let the creativity work out how to paint about it.
We’ll see how this works.
This is gonna be interesting. I started to type out fun … but honestly, parts of it will be fun. A lot of it will be work. Engaging work, sure – and that’s fun. But, not like a party. There’s a lot of introspection and just working involved. Heck of a lot more fun than when I was a paralegal, sure, and other than when I helped out artists, more fun than managing the arts center. But work. Good work.
I love this process, the freedom and happy accidents that occur with it. If you pour, you know what I mean.
Sometimes the results are wonderful. Sometimes parts of it are.
I saw an ad a popular arts & crafts store did for pour painting, and I thought, you know, I need to put something out there about focusing on pouring to make art, not just arts & crafts. Because it’s fun, like crafting a marble effect, and freeing, it’s become crazily popular. But man, if you saw that commercial, you might see it as fun but their examples left the art out of it.
How to make pour painting art? Simplified, I’d say keep art principles in mind –
COMPOSITION: Composition, perhaps using motion and assymetrical balance as your guide, and unity. You may have a great innate sensibility already tuned to this – don’t discount that. But the classic lessons on composition can really help you create more artful and satisfying pieces and less pieces that end up stuck in the back of the closet.
For a more thorough read, you can’t get any better than David Lauer’s Design Basics books. I’ve burned through and given away just about every edition, including the old black and white version. It’s college level, but easy to read and for artists, the short explanations with copious amounts of illustration and photographs are easy to embrace. Visual learners, this book is key.
LAYERING (and gelskin hack):
As you progress, you may find that some pieces have promise but just aren’t satisfactory as they are. Yes, you can layer this stuff. I can tell you from experience that you can layer, and layer, and layer … and soon it will start taking a really long time to dry in between layers. And note – with transparent paints, it’s much easier to go darker in layers than lighter, unless you start adding some opaques, which can be tricky.
You’ll also find that you can also ruin a painting pretty easily by not really knowing what you want to do in that next layer.
Hack: Try the type of layer you want on a piece of plastic sheeting, polyethelene, or even a large Ziploc bag. Let it dry, and check it on top of the piece. If you get an effect you like, you can either recreate it on your piece, or simply peel the gelskin off, and brush on some gloss medium or pouring medium, and apply it to your art making sure to squish out any bubbles. MAKE SURE NOT TO LAY YOUR GELSKIN DIRECTLY ON YOUR WORK, especially if it’s sticky at all. They may become one. And, Yes, your surface will be bumpy – try doing a pour over the whole thing (I usually wait until it’s all done, do a final pour and Art Resin to clear up surface issues.
This is only one example of layering – experiment!
COLOR THEORY (and hack): The David Lauer book is good for a bit of this, and there are tons of books out there. Color Matters offers a fairly concise description – but what you are interested in here is how they are going to react on the painting. And, especially, what you might want to layer on. Sometimes a very light transparent glaze is all you need to tie things together in a beautiful way.
Hack: Use sheets of mylar or scraps of plexiglass from your framer, and mix a little of your transparent paint with pouring medium. Pour a large enough puddle of each in sections on your mylar and let it dry thoroughly. Us this to hold over your painting and see what you might want to add in a layer. They keep for long use if you put a sheet of polyethylene (painter’s tarps) around them when you store them. Note – The paint will stick to the mylar – this is not a way to make gelskins.
USE THE SPECIAL PROPERTIES OF THE MEDIUM: I’d go a bit farther, too. The nature of Liquitex Pouring Medium is that it has wonderful clarity and creates spectacular light-bounce. This creates especially lovely effects with transparents, metallic and interference paints (called color-shift by some companies). If you want to use opaque paint, you might save money and try one of those cheaper alternatives like Floetrol* or Glue, like many demonstrate with this on YouTube. I don’t use them so don’t ask me for advice on that!
Listen, however you want to paint, do it. If you hit those paintings that are pretty but just don’t make you happy, seriously consider doing a bit of study. You might find it fascinating and fulfilling to use it in your work.