Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Painting Lesson


"Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways."
--Oscar Wilde        

The Intuitive painting class I took last month in Phoenix (see  6/2/15 post,  "Cycles of Creation") produced some interesting moments, resulted in meeting new friends, and captured my 
imagination for what might be possible in the year ahead pursuing a passion for abstract art. I've always learned best by listening and observing. My observations are naturally
very personal and reflect my own esthetic sensibilities, which could very well be
completely different from the artist's own interpretations. But that's what I like about abstract art, there's room for everyone's individual view. The people in my painting class were all teachers in their own way. I'm presenting their paintings today.Thank you everyone!

Melissa (Untitled)

     I told Melissa (who by the way was a darling for helping me gather names and emails for this blog project...thank you, Melissa) that her painting reminded me of scenes from my recent trip to Costa Rica. I visited Lankaster Gardens and a small rainforest where the tangled abundance of nature, flowers and animals made a fairly indelible impression. I now tend to see images of colorful birds everywhere I look and could easily pick out a few in her work. I also thought her design was perfect for a fabulous silk scarf or some other killer accessory. I was drooling over her painting and the way it captured a restrained exoticism.

Joyce ("Canyon Ridge")

      My photograph of Joyce and her wonderful painting does not do justice to the richness and depth of color and texture in her work. She predominantly used my favorite color (turquoise)  and I was smitten with the intricate layers of color upon color suggesting (to me) caves, caverns and ridges to explore in a midsummer's night dream.It was a painting that called out for many, many minutes of contemplation to explore the rich spaces and places leading to center. And how 'bout those drips? Nice!

Liz ("Hot Music" & "Purple Passion")

     I was beset with momentary envy when I saw that Liz had managed to produce not one but two top notch paintings during our class, one warm, one cool. But envy subsided pretty quickly because Liz was way too charming, friendly and talented to be jealous of. I like the way she was able to manipulate shape and design elements while, as the watercolor people always say, 'saving her whites'... that's something I'm working hard on right now. Bravo, Liz!

Sandy ("Open Book")

     Sandy's painting showed me how a painting can integrate soft and hard (edges bumped up to gauzy swirls), evoke the whisper of an idea (book), and create interest with one well placed and interestingly shaped swatch of color (ocher, lower left). For me...and this is just my take on it...this is a piece that provides a chance for me to learn by observing, exploring and analyzing the process of how a composition can emerge from a coherent inner vision. In other words, I love the sense of boundaried movement as well as the colors/white space in the piece.

Louis ("Fire And Ice")

     Full disclosure here: Louis is my charming and talented husband who loves abstract art and has produced many  amazing pieces which grace our walls at home. He told me he really liked Stan's class  and though he wasn't sure what he was getting into, he ended up liking his painting a lot. Me too. I told him I saw a Georgia O'Keeffe influence, somebody else saw a volcano erupting. Interesting what we see as a result of our own unique experience and perspective. When we got home Louis got inspired all over again with Stan's other technique of 'doodling' pen and ink sketches into a small portable journal. Now Louis is looking at some of the Cubist painters as inspiration  for his daily journal keeping process.

Valerie (Untitled)

     Valerie and I laughed when we realized the shot I took of her and her painting reflected almost perfectly Stan's style of painting 'head and torso' (take a look at his website and you'll see what I mean). Her painting was a complete delight to behold because it gave me another way to explore subjects like boundary versus infinity, color blocs, non-traditional focal points, opportunities with white gesso, creating fuzzy edges and more. For me, it evokes a sense of the sky opening up to a stained glass day of beauty and goodness...something about the perceived slants of light from top left, down. The sense of  'salvation' in this work  makes me feel really good...and isn't that what it all comes down to anyway, that old saw:  "I may not know much about art, but I know what I like?"

  Suzanne  (Untitled)

Suzanne was fearless, changing her painting at least three times during the course of the class, which lasted all day. I learned a lot by watching her obliterate a swath of purple, replacing it with a completely different hue that gave a whole different feel to the piece. I thought the Zentangle touch at the bottom of the painting was the piece de resistance, a great addition that provided interesting  and welcome contrast, giving perfect weight to the abstract top third of the piece. 


Hmmmmmmm, where shall I begin? My painting started out as a John Marin abstract-inspired piece (see center focal point, the remnants of a pretty nice little forest scene), and ended up as a practice sheet for various techniques suggested by Stan. For example, the gray portions are where I tried out how he uses a special gray gesso he concocts. Ditto the black space. OK, tried it and think I need lots of practice going forward. Think I'll use less next time. Side element is pure black gesso, scrubbed with a large dry brush, then scraped with one of those copper brillo pad things from the kitchen. These machinations produced some interesting texture, with bits of my original forest peeking through. I keep thinking of the long pink and gray swath on the left side as some kind of floaty curtain effect. But then what do I know...in the end it could turn out to be just fruit juice dripping from the raspberry bushes hidden by a rectangular black cloud which is in reality only my black visor hat turned on its side. Ha! 

("On The Side" )

      Well, clearly this painting is one of those 'stay tuned' compositions which will turn into something one of these days that makes sense to me esthetically and emotionally, just not quite there yet.  Working on how to save the red and pink and green flower thing, lower right... this exercise in the imaginative recycling of a creation may turn out to be more fun than doing the original. In the next few weeks I'll revisit this, after I've finished another upcoming abstract workshop at the Sedona Arts Center.   

 Stan Kurth
      To our teacher, Stan Kurth  (stan.kurth@gmail.com),  I say thanks a million for the affordable, inviting and provocative painting workshop. Sharing his captivating approach to intuitive painting through informal conversation throughout the day and an after class analysis was entertaining, instructive and appreciated. Learning about his sketch journaling process was unexpected and very welcome information, something that's given me a whole new perspective on combining words and image. Love having this image of his painting to examine and learn from over the coming weeks.


  1. Loved this. I am taking the workshop next weekend, can hardly wait! Thank you.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, so appreciated. Hope you enjoy and benefit from the art workshop with Stan, a very mellow and eminently approachable teacher. Would love to see your painting when you're done!

  2. What a great post, Melanie! You write so well - and you convey both the detail, the colour and the joy of these adventures in painting superbly well. I LOVE art and could not live well without it - but cannot paint to save myself. Writing is my medium. And by the way - turquoise is also my favourite colour, especially that natural turqouise of warm Mediterrranean sea, as well as the chilly turquoise veins you see in icebergs and glaciers...

    1. Good to hear from you lassie, thanks for checking in. I'm always tickled to know other writers are reading what I'm writing....and how fun that you are in love with turquoise! I want to go to Alaska to see some of those chilly turquoise veins in the icebergs and glaciers before they are gone.