Constructing Paintings

Before I talked about my love of building and the wood I bought for the purpose of making new painting structures, now we are actually doing something with it! It can be a good deal of work, but I enjoy it. There is quite a lot of cutting measuring and gluing that has to happen.

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Sebastian Measures the Boards

Here you can see us preparing all of the wood that we bought so it can be the right size for the paintings.

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Adrian Cuts the Boards

The next stage that had to happen very quickly was gluing the braces on to the luan board. Wood glue is extremely sturdy, and once it dries it is the main binding element for the paintings, in the meantime we used staples and weights to get everything into place.

Ready to be Glued

Ready to be Glued

I stand triumphantly over our pile of successful construction.

Weights for Drying Glue

Weights for Drying Glue

The last step before stretching the canvas is to screw in some braces. This keeps the wood from warping too much or shifting out of positions, even if it is the glue doing most of the work.

Drilling Braces

Drilling Braces

A Drawing under the Clouds

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So, did you notice the issue I alluded to in the Rocks, Plants, and Randomness blog? Can you see my drawing of the tree under the sky?  It’s understandable if you didn’t, because unless you’re zoomed in it is difficult notice anything. This problem arose because of some particular quirks with how I work. As I have mentioned before I do more detailed and intense underdrawings than is strictly necessary, I also tend to paint very thin. Both of these factors together mean that the drawn but not painted parts of the tree are visible. I could perhaps get away with it now, but as the painting ages the phantom tree would become more and more obvious. Oil paint becomes more transparent with age.

Drawing of tree that never was

Some of my intentions for this painting have changed dramatically as I’ve worked on it. A while ago I made a post about how I was experimenting with a new technique for painting clouds (which you can read here). As the painting evolved I actually quite liked the stark beauty of the blank sky, and wanted to leave it alone. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), the too-dark under drawing forced my hand. Painting it over with some blue patches would look like a bad repair covering up some sort of damage. Repainting the entire sky would be very awkward and fundamentally change the work. I had already decided to truncate the tree. My best option: do the clouds I had originally planned!

I’m not quite finished with them yet, but adapting once again has been as interesting and informative as I could have hoped for. Painting the clouds on dry has allowed me to make them both wispier and sharper than I could have otherwise. Technically this research and development has exciting potential. The last wrinkle of this long chain of challenges means I will have to rethink the lighting of the work. With an empty sky the lighting could be hazy dense with moisture like a Renaissance Venetian landscape, but the clouds necessitate some variation. Though this might sound like a series of problems, for me the challenge is a large part of the reason I paint.

Pictures, Words, Communication, Reach

Lunch at Green Street

Elle Steinman, Malcolm Johnstone, Adrian, Sebastian

 

Malcolm, Elle, Sebastian and I were discussing this very blog (among other things) over lunch last Monday and getting a feel for collecting the widest possible audience for my show. Malcolm Johnstone (Executive Director of West Chester BID) summed up our delightful working lunch conversation with the word “reach”.

Concepts like publicity, marketing, public relations, spin were invented and exploited as business jargon for selling the industrial revolution at the beginning of the 20th century. Beyond that it blossomed into the quintessential American art form starting with abstract expressionism after WWII up to the master Andy Warhol and Pop Art in the sixties. But that’s not what Malcolm meant by “reach” and I realized for the first time that communication is not just something that happens at a particular moment, in a particular conversation, to have a particular effect – but an accumulation of experiences over time.

This realization is encapsulated by the internet, and I was just beginning to understand. This is going to be fun, interesting and (most extraordinarily to me) my work and my agenda is adapting before my very eyes! The internet is a new world to BE in so we are BECOMING something new. My lifelong study of art and art history (sometimes very old art and art history) has always nourished my work. In the last few years so have some artist friends who also share this fascination of being and becoming with me; artists like the photographer Jim Lawson and the painters David Oleski and Jasmine Alleger. People reach out to me and I reach out to them. It’s what art is all about. It’s what life is all about.

I step in the studio each morning reaching out to Humphry Marshall and after two centuries he’s reaching towards me. It’s not just space – its time. On November 8th 2016 at the Chester County Historical Society Humphry and I will reveal our collaboration with each other and our collaboration with the world. Malcolm will be there, and Elle and Oleski, Jasmine, and so many others.

Rocks, Plants, and Randomness

My landscape is finally nearing completion, perhaps when it’s done I’ll actually decide on a name for it. The first step in putting the finishing touches on a work is to give it some varnish. This has the unfortunate side effect of making the painting shinier than it would otherwise be, but it brings out the full color of the paint. Once the varnish enables me to actually see what I’ve done I get to work.

Here you can see the before/after of the area around the roots of the tree. I quite enjoy this kind of work and one of the most important parts of doing it right is restraint. It would be very easy for me to get carried away and turn this section of the work into its own little forest floor still life. Though it could be beautiful in and of itself, it would seriously throw off the balance of the rest of the painting and I’ve got to think about the health of the entire work.

This section I needed to make less bare and create a natural transition between the different kind of rocks Humphry and the tree rest on. When I was working on it I accidently made that transition point too hard, almost a line. It’s a surprisingly easy mistake to make – it is extraordinarily hard to paint a random distribution. You always end up trying to make some sort of pattern, even unconsciously.

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In the next update about this landscape I’ll be talking about a complex issue with the sky you might be able to notice…

Fundraising Planning

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Leah, David, Sebastian, Glenda, Lauren

Sebastian here, my family, David Reinfeld, and Lauren Hoyer had an excellent meeting with Glenda Brion at her home. We all met together to plan a future fundraising event that Glenda and her husband Skip are graciously hosting at their beautiful home. Above you can see all of us working out the details of the event over lunch. The meeting was very productive and I learned quite a lot from the combined fundraising and organization experience of Lauren, David, and Glenda. The Brion and Martinez families have been friends for many years, so it was great for me to be able to work with Glenda and see her in action. I’ve talked before on the blog about the opportunities for meeting new people a show like Martinez presents Marshall creates, but I hadn’t considered I would see new sides of existing friends!

 

Here you can see Glenda and my Dad standing in front of “The Roosters” the first of my Dad’s paintings that the Brions fell in love with. After undertaking the considerable work of planning for the future, it was good to reminisce a little about the past.

Darlington

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William Darlington was a botanist who represented the next set in the botanical sciences after Humphry Marshall. Above is a picture of him actually from the time, painted by John Neagle – not by Adrian Martinez.

William Darlington was born on April 28th, 1782 in Chester County. Born on a farm he would go on to excel in a variety of different fields, he was doctor, botanist, congressman, banker, and historian among other things. His most important connection in the context of the Martinez presents Marshall show was his long friendship with another botanist named William Baldwin. Another Chester County native (1779) Baldwin’s love of botany was inspired by none other than Moses Marshall, who would often take him on tours through Humphry’s botanic garden. Baldwin in turn inspired a deeper interest in botany in Darlington. A sufferer of tuberculosis all of his life Baldwin died young and it is partially in his memory that Darlington used his considerable resources as a historian to create The Memorials of John Bartram and Humphry Marshall, the first major record of Humphry’s life and letters. Without Darlington’s work and the lineage of great botanists that inspired its creation, this show wouldn’t even be possible!

Building a Base

I like being involved in all of the stages of my paintings (except cleaning my brushes, I would avoid that bit of tedium if I could) and that includes building the structure on which the canvas is mounted. With the landscape nearing completion I have run out of canvases to paint on. So Sebastian and I had to run down to the store and buy a lot of wood to keep me going – hopefully for the rest of the show.

 

There are a lot of practical reasons to do this work myself, it saves money and it allows me to make a canvas that fits my exact specifications. Ultimately, I do it because I enjoy it and it gives me satisfaction. I love wood working, and I’ve been known to build large pieces of furniture after finishing a big show. I used to work mostly with oil on board, but with paintings this large I would have to use multiple pieces of wood for the backing, which creates unavoidable seams, so I just cover that over with a canvas, which has proven to be an excellent solution. Soon I’ll have a stock of them ready and waiting to go!

Vision, Scale, and Detail

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One of the magic things about painting is how just a few strokes of paint can create an image of something completely different like a figure or a face. In this particular work I will focus on the hand of Humphry Marshall. As you see below I have in no way made a detailed hand, just a few suggestive blobs of flesh tone.

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Doing a hand like this is actually a particular choice that you have to make when doing a painting. If I choose to paint a complete hand with tiny distinct fingers and a solid outline, it actually wouldn’t read as a hand from far away. All of the details would merge together and create visual confusion, which is not something I wanted to do with a broad painting like this one.

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The other interesting element of this new section of painting was the rock on which Humphry is standing. I didn’t have a particular plan when working on them, other than making some visually interesting rock formations, but I ended up unconsciously making Humphry’s position quite precarious. Examining my work I think that this instability makes an excellent visual metaphor for the character of Humphry Marshall, his vision was great but his footing unstable. He didn’t know if his ideas about the science of botany would find an audience or a purpose, he didn’t even know what kind of future America itself would have. Regardless of the risks he forged onward with his projects. This aspect of Humphry resonates strongly with me, and its easy for me to see how it ended up reflecting in what I painted.

Antiques Show Reflections

The Antiques Show could be best described as intense! We spent most of the weekend attending our booth and talking to people about Martinez presents Marshall. The staff at CCHS did a heroic job organizing this show and making sure it was a success. Accompanying us at our booth on Saturday was the amazing Phil Dague, dressed up in his Joseph Plum Martin revolutionary war uniform, which you can see below. He did a great job creating interest for the show, and people were very intrigued when they realized he was the model for the painting he was standing next to.

Saturday also saw us accompanied by two people doing some live interviews with Antiques Show visitors about the upcoming permanent gallery renovations at CCHS, it looks very exciting, even in this early stage. I used to think being an artist was a quiet, solitary profession. While it can certainly be both of those things, I’ve come to realize that it often involves a lot of action and communication. I’ve also come to realize this sort of involvement is a good thing, and though it was an exhausting weekend it was very worthwhile.