Thursday, August 27, 2009

Going Abstract, Baby!

The Reds#49, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 9x6

Over the last year or so I have been pondering which direction to take my paintings in. I felt that I especially wanted to explore the colors and glazes that I so love to use and while I wasn't sure, I thought abstract would be a good direction in that case. I fooled around with some 4x4 squares, and just using one color; pink, red, blue green, etc and then scratching marks into the wet paint. They weren't really doing much for me though and so mostly the squares have been sitting in a pile on one of the tables in my studio all this time. I did send a few to Steven LaRose so that he could do something with them, a collaboration of sorts. Haven't seen anything from him though, so I suspect they are now sitting in a pile on one of the tables in his studio now. Heh.

Anyway, in July while I was preparing my work for the show at Carrie Haddad Gallery (the show is up until Sunday so there is still time to see it!) this caught my eye:

I had just finished this painting and since it is a 36x48 panel, I had to set it on my easel vertically (it is a Horizon Line series painting, meant to be horizontal) so that I could walk around it more easily in order to get to my desk.

So it sat like this for a few days and I couldn't stop looking at it. I kept thinking that it should be a vertical! I yearned for it to be a vertical, but in the end I left it horizontal so that it would be in keeping with the rest of the work in the show.


I knew what I was going to do next! Instead of having my usual post show meltdown, I got right back to work in the studio. The first ones I did were on gessoed paper and were small; 4x8, 6x10 or so and my intent was for them to be long verticals. This worked ok, I was interested enough (somewhat obsessed, actually) by the process and the results to keep going. And Doug was very helpful in explaining to me what he was seeing in them. Which was different and much more involved than what I thought I was doing!
Study, 4x8, Oil on Gessoed Paper

I decided that the next batch would be on panels. Um, just in case they got better (dealing with presenting and/or framing the works on paper stresses me out). As of today, I have done about 30 paintings, including a batch of about a dozen to put in an event at the local arts org. next week. None have been terrible but some are definitely much stronger than others. I am very excited about these works and have a lot of ideas about other directions in which to take them. There has also been much discussion about the orientation of the panels. My intent was that they would all be vertical "stripes" and I painted them like that, but of course many of them simply look better as horizontals. I really wanted to be completely abstract with these, but now I have decided to view them as a bridge from the older work to the new. Doug and I spent some time today discussing which way each of them should be presented. Also turns out that many of them go either way. Heh.
The Reds#48, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 9x9

Also working in a more square format (thanks Steven!) helps to make them work better as a vertical image.

Oh and much debate about titles. Oh the titles! I just couldn't bear the thought of having to come up with more titles, 30 right now, today!!! So I decided to simply title the series and number each of them.

I am posting several images here today and will put up more along with my usual posts. Will also be posting them (well, the good ones anyway;)) on my Facebook fan page.

AND. I have a mini new direction already, will post those images next time.
The Reds#55, 2009, Oil on Birch Panel, 6x9


Anonymous said...

I just love your bravery!!
Listening to the cognitive process is all so very interesting to me. And how cool these look! Carry on!!

Katherine Kean said...

It's great to see you so excited and your enthusiasm comes right through in your post. These look great, can't wait to see where it goes!

meno said...

I like these!

Barbara J Carter said...

I love these, and I agree that the peek into your thought processes and the evolution of your thinking about the work is fascinating.

Sizun said...

How exciting to read about your thinking process to create these abstract paintings ! Definitely waiting for more to see !

peter senesac said...

I think it's interesting that Doug sees more in them than you do. Or is more interested in seeing more. Some times we just like to paint and see what happens or just like the way something looks but other people see something else. We all see something other than what you see. I think that is one of the main things that makes abstracts interesting.

Natalya Khorover Aikens said...

these are wonderful! and thank you for sharing your process, it is always so interesting to read how an artist gets "there".

Kim Hambric said...

Just keep painting and worry about what they are later. I'm loving looking at them & looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Mim said...

Love the abstracts Tracy. Love also that you can still find new things in your work...I need to work on that.

patty a. said...

Love the verticals! I hope you will have some on you site for sale.

Denise Rose said...

Love them! Your enthusiasm is contagious too! I want to hurry up and go paint right now after reading your post, even though I have Mommy responsibilities around here with the house, child, and dog and cat! haha! Great job and I look forward to seeing what else you have planned to show us!

Robert Ross said...

GOOD FOR YOU! What a great gift it was to turn that painting on its side! Sometimes looking at things the "wrong way" is the right way to see what's been hiding from us.

Steven LaRose said...

sheesh, talk about passive aggressive. Now I'll HAVE to go dig those pieces of yours out from under the ginormous pile of very important back-burner projects I have accumulating in the periphery of my studio. ;P

Actually those tiny squares are propped against my amplifier so I see them every time I'm in the studio. I simply can't bring myself to do anything to them.

Talk about abstraction! They are a perfect pair of the purest form. Anything I would do would turn them into some sort of figure/ground relationship. As it is, they are a yin/yang of color and atmosphere. They each share the same Helgeson Hallmark base treatment (burnt orange with a rub of bricky burgundy) but one leans a tad cooler with a quinacridone veil while the other is a fiery dance of autumnal orange.

What could I possibly do to these four inch squares?

As far as your current pieces, like I said in our emails: "I always anthropomorphically view your paintings. The barns and trees become characters on a stage. These I could see as portraits. The stripes are trees or tight passages in the forest. Details that I dig.

Thanks for the link. You always know how to spike my stat count.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Thanks Tracy, although I suspect bravery and stupidity are closely related ;)

Katherine, Meno, Barbara, Ghislaine, Natalya, so glad that you enjoyed hearing my big long description of how I got to these. I must admit that I was feeling a bit long winded in the middle of writing all this and nearly deleted it all, so I could just say "here's the new stuff" ;))

Thanks, Peter, it really helped me that Doug could see more in them, it gave me a bit more understanding about what the heck i was doing;) I have always loved hearing what people see in my work, mostly because it is usually so much more than I do. I just wanna paint;)

Kim, will do and am hoping people will tell me what they are later;)

Thanks, Michelle. Well it has been a struggle for me too, to find new things in what I do and to determine which way to go. i have been floundering with it for the last year or so.....

Pattynubs, turns out these look awesome in a small format so I will be putting some up for sale on my other blog in September;)

Thanks Denise and am always glad to inspire someone to paint ;) Um, after all the mom stuff of course.

Bob, it's funny because I often set work on its side (for space reasons) but this is the first time I recognized something different. Guess I was finally ready to see it;)

Steven, hehe, didn't mean to be passive aggressive, just wanted to point out that I suspect those squares are just meant to sit around in a painter's studio, indefinitely. And don't feel like you have to do anything to them, I like that you are enjoying them in all their perfection ;) Thanks for your feedback too, it helped me a lot.

PS. Will have to ponder the 'Helgeson Hallmark' phrase for a bit longer, somehow that makes me nervous;)

Ruth Armitage said...

These are LUSH. The color becomes the main player when subject matter is removed. It was always up front, but intereacted more with content when you had people & landscapes. Now each one brings me its own subterrainean meaning. More mysterious. Exciting!

Steven LaRose said...

Don't let my alliteration make you nervous. That was more me goofing with words than trying to make a point.

But now that you mention it, one could spend a whole week posting about brand, style, creativity, habits, ruts, and grooves. Personally, I think it is a wise thing to maintain as much consistency as possible in your painting while making changes. Hah! Figure that out.

Anonymous said...

The colours in Red #48 sing to me - do you know what I mean? Or do I just sound a little unbalanced? Love your new direction.

photo restoration service said...

Great collection of artwork!

twistedangel said...

I am amazed at how you can fully embrace a different direction and come out with works as equally splendid, possessing your unique style. I tried that before but several times I keep reverting to the same style I've been identified with ever since.

Chris Rywalt said...

How is it 19 comments went by and no one mentioned Rothko or Newman? I thought of them immediately! These new paintings look like some strange love child of the two. You've got Rothko's atmosphere and color with the Newman zips. What's different is the hard edge of Newman and the pastel dustiness of Rothko. (In fact I've read that some of his paintings are turning to dust, like old pastels, because he overthinned his paint.)

I imagine I'd like your versions better than either of them; people always seem to find Rothko almost religiously powerful but he's never worked for me.

Crazy Ravens Studio said...

Hi Tracy, Just discovered your website. I admire your abstracts (love the red). I am wanting to take the plunge to explore abstracts and your work has given me courage to go for it.

Tracy Helgeson said...

Ruth, thanks! love LUSH!! I am enjoying the chance to really make my work all about color. It is extremely challenging, which kinda surprised me, but it's a good challenging;)

Steven, I got what you meant, silly;) And it's strange, because in some ways this doesn't seem like a huge departure from my Horizon Lines series. OTOH, I totally recognize that I am not painting anything here that really looks like anything. So I guess it is a big shift after all.

Thanks, Cath, and no you don't sound unbalanced;) I am pleased they sing to you on a computer screen, the colors are way better irl!!

twistedangel, I guess they still look like mine because my painting process has not changed;)am continuing with it because I love the process and am not ready to change that up.

Chris, love child of Newman and Rothko? That is good!! I hated Rothko's work when I saw it in college, now I have a much deeper appreciation for it. I am not terribly familiar with Barnett Newman's work, although I have seen a few of his pieces in the museums. I have specifically NOT been looking at abstract work for the last six months ago as I didn't want to be too influenced by anyone but myself;) Probably all seeps in anyway though.....

Thanks Paula, and so glad to inspire! Good luck!!

NJ ART 73 said...

As a painter who paints both landscapes and abstracts I commend you on taking the leap into new territory. I keep intending to return to abstract painting in addition to my landscapes but as of this date I have not . Your sense of color has been excellent and it will be interesting to see how your abstract painting influences the landscapes. Perhaps you could take some of your landscapes that have not been brought to a successful resolution and use those as a springboard for abstract explorations? Sometimes when I am stuck I begin to paint again by using those paintings that did not quite come together. BTW- at the Whitney this fall there will be an exhibition,O'Keefee's Abstractions which may be of interest to you. The Whitney website has information on this exhibition, hours and admission. Friday nights you pay what you want but that night can become quite crowded