Sold a copy of this print on canvas today. I painted the original from a sketch I did on a scrap of paper I had in my purse. We were at a concert of the Grand Junction Symphony. I did the painting as a demonstration of how to use a sketch at a workshop for kids at the Western Colorado Center for the Arts. The style is spontaneous and expressive. Though painted just a few years ago, it represents a return to my early figurative expressionist style. Paintings in this style were shown and sold in California under the name Gene Armstrong from Holly Wood’s (not kidding) gallery in Montecito and elsewhere. I often worked from small sketches. I enjoyed sketching people at produce markets, the beach, Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara, the charming Miramar Hotel in Montecito, and on bus stops. Those paintings were done before I spent years in life drawing groups, so recent expressionist figurative works like this one are different.
It’s still sunny here in Grand Junction, but the weatherman says snow is on the way for our valley. Here’s a photo I took of a mailbox in front of one of the houses in our neighborhood. Looks Christmasy, doesn’t it?
I also sold a postcard of my Yellow to Purple abstract acrylic on canvas. I have always admired the quiet prints of Josef Albers. This painting, part of a series of works that move from complement to complement, pays homage to Albers, but takes a different direction. I like to lay my acrylic on thick and loose.
In the nineties, I painted many figurative works. Some of them were done at the Barnsdall Art Center in Hollywood. Others were done in private groups. This was one of my favorite models. He was a retired dancer who had been featured on the cover of Dance Magazine. He was very gifted and had a wonderful flair for costume and set design. I painted his setup at another artist’s studio in a day-long shared model session. There are two paintings in the set. Each is about 30″ x 30″. They were done in acrylic on canvas, and I had a wonderful time!
More than twenty artists attended his drawing sessions. Sam hired a model and each of us staked out a drawing table. For a long time, I drew each pose on a separate sheet of toned Canson Mi Tientes in pastel.
Then, on a trip to the Norton Simon Museum (in Pasadena), I saw a marvelous Picasso charcoal drawing on canvas. Ah hah! I thought. The next time I went to the studio I took an enormous stretched and gessoed canvas. I made it my task to draw all of the poses from the session (2 minute, 5 minute, 10 minute, and 20 minute–several each) on the canvas in charcoal.
The gessoed canvas made the evolving work possible, since the charcoal just sat on top. I could erase out overlaps cleanly and modify the composition with ease. When I got home, I fixed the work. After a month, I had several of these. (My husband called them my "Orgy Series")
When I took them to my dealer, Orlando Gallery, he said they needed something more to hang together and suggested glazes of color. Inspired, I rushed to the Art Store and stocked up on Golden transparent medium and some transparent colors. The glazes were fantastic!
The next time I went to the studio, the artist sitting next to me suggested something brilliant. I don't know whether he was kidding or not, but he asked why I always used canvas. He wondered why I did not draw on some other kind of cloth.
Well, my daughter was designing costumes for a high school production of Othello, and we were spending our weekends in the garment district in downtown Los Angeles. Several shops carried left-over polyester lining fabric. It had a nice texture, it was strong, it was archival enough to last through a nuclear war, and it was very cheap. I bought all I could carry home on the bus, and I was off!
I stretched the fabric on bars and gessoed it. The gesso soaked all the way through, so I learned to put down extra newspapers, but when it dried, I had a terrific surface.
This time, I decided to create further variation. I added filmy clothes and wings to each sktech, making the nudes into angels.
Now, I must admit, I had seen this sort of thing before. When I had a workspace fellowship at the Woodstock School of Art in 1993, I shared the models I hired with other artists, and one of them turned her nudes into angels.
Actually, that is the real point, I think. Angels are everywhere. They are the people we meet every day who share the things we need to hear. Most of the time, we do not recognize them, but they are always there.
If you are reading this, you are one of them…
A couple of weeks later, as part of a painting demonstration for school children, I pulled the drawings out of my purse. I did this quick painting to show students that you can make drawings at any time and use them later in a composition.
If you teach,
1. Encourage students to fold a sheet of newsprint or recycled white paper once in either direction.
2. Tell them to carry the paper, along with a short pencil, in a pocket for a day.
3. Encourage students to make at least three quick sketches.
4. Allow them time to create a color version of the drawing.
5. Use crayon, tempera, torn paper, textures from magazines, or watercolor to create the composition.
6. Emphasize that the sketch is just a starting place.
I painted this abstract acrylic on canvas while listening to live jazz at Grand Junction’s popular annual street festival. It’s part of my improvisational series. I enjoy allowing a work to reveal itself . I haven’t had time to paint since Spring Art Week, but it’s instructive to look back at previous work.
At the time, I had just finished the manuscript for my phonics book, "ABC, Follow Me!" The book concerns itself with the shapes of letters as well as the sounds they represent. It also includes a number of craft projects to teach these shapes. In short, I had letters on my mind.
I started the first painting with an elaborate concept, but it just wasn't working, so I let it dry and moved to another. The same thing happened. The deadline was approaching, and I didn't know what to do.
Then, I decided to use letters as English words. I painted each of the large canvases with a different pure hue. I started with I, I, I, I; moved to three U's ("Oh lucky You"), which add another layer, as they suggest horseshoes. The one shown here is "Oh, Oh, Oh". It calls to mind the famous joke:
A first grade teacher comes out to the parking lot and sees her bumper dented. Then she fumes, "Oh, oh, oh! Look, look, look! Darn, darn, darn!
Recently, I used the concept I developed with these paintings in a demonstration for school children. We made paintings on bright hues if single letters.