Can Messy Be a Good Thing?


We were all taught to clean up as children; clean up your room, clean up after yourself, put away your toys. As adults we consider a messy workplace a vice. It’s true, a good clean up can be a relief, a breath of fresh air. A new beginning. Sometimes it is an equal relief to just leave it all for tomorrow. I do this on a regular basis. My husband cooks, I clean the dishes. Tomorrow. I actually enjoy cleaning up the previous day’s dinner dishes in the morning. It seems to set my day right. And my husband generously puts up with a sink full of dirty dishes after dinner. I do the same thing in the studio. I know many artists like to clean up everything after a painting session, leaving everything ready to go the next day. I wash my brushes (out of sheer necessity, I don’t want them to be ruined) and leave the rest where it is. I know I’ll sort it out later. This decision is not made out of laziness (OK, maybe a little) but from the belief that starting a new painting session with the debris of the previous day helps my creative juices to start flowing. A quick clean up putting away tools and materials that I won’t need helps me to think about what I want and what I’ll be doing that day. Enough teal, put that tube away but look at that sap green next to the cadminum orange! That’s what I’ll use today! Putting pencils away I see a dark blue colored pencil in the drawing pencils box. I pick it up to put it away in the colored pencils box and it occurs to me that it would look wonderful next to that dusty pink in yesterday’s painting. When things are scattered about unexpected pairings occur. And that stimulates ideas and creative energy.

“Between Me and My Dream”

“Between Me and My Dream”

I like to paint messy also. If I paint a large flat shape, I can’t resist putting a little scribble on top. I have to mess it up, just a little. I love the layers upon layers of paint and marks and more paint and scribbles. I love being able to see through the layers and see hints of what happened before. Those are the paintings that I get the most feedback about, usually about the “energy” and “sense of freedom” in them. So I will keep making messes and keep painting with freedom and abandon and worry about the mess later!

So tell me, are you neat or messy? How does it help your process or thinking?

Two Shows

I am so excited to tell you of two upcoming shows that will include my work. The first is at the Atlantic Gallery in New York City. Three of my paintings will be in this show. The opening is November 29th and the show will run through December 22nd.

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My mother used to say “Doesn’t rain but it pours!” So it’s pouring a little bit. Another one of my paintings was juried into a show at Catalyst Gallery in Beacon, NY.

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Needless to say, I’m excited, nervous (OK, a tiny bit panicked) but overall happy to be sharing my art with the world! If you are in New York City or near Beacon , NY please stop by, I’d love to see you!

Color Outside The Lines

This painting is one of my favorites.

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I count it as among my best work. I painted it when I was 5 years old. Probably after seeing the Nutcracker Ballet with my head full of thoughts of being a ballerina. I was thinking of that twirling motion, the tutu, arms held high, posture firm but delicate, not rigid. How did I manage to encompass all that as a 5 year old? because I wasn't thinking about making it great or how it would look when it was done. I was just remembering and feeling, letting my feelings guide my hands.   

People often think abstract painting is easy "My 6 year old kid could do that" or hard " I could never do that". So which is it? Easy or hard? Both. It is easy because there's nothing to compare it to like a painting of an apple should look like an apple. Just make a mark, throw some paint down. (OK, it's not really that easy, but you get the idea.) The hardest part is letting go of the limitations we set for ourselves or allow others to set for us. A painting has to be beautiful, it should be about something recognizable, it should be "good", color in the lines, no scribbling etc., etc. The foundation for most of my work is breaking the rules. I love to scribble and make a mess. Usually the best work comes when I am frustrated (because I'm trying to make it "good") and then  say "whatever" with a bit of attitude. Thats when the fun begins and the painting starts to be good. Because I stop trying to make it good. It's so hard for me to wrap my brain around that idea that I have to keep relearning it over and over again.

But there's a better reason to break the rules than to make a good painting. That feeling that immediately follows taking a risk, using a weird color or a making big fat mark on top of that beautiful, delicate painting, is exhilarating! (I often say in my head "Yup! I just DID that!) I feel like there are no bounds that can hold me (momentarily anyway), I feel a little superhuman. 

So I recommend breaking the rules. Color outside the lines. Wear stripes with polka dots. Go sky diving (Well, that last one does makes me a little queasy). Do something you are a little afraid to do and go at it with abandon. And leave a comment about how it goes!


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New Works on Paper

I'm continuing to pursue a feeling of fluidity, and looseness in my painting. In my process as well as in the finished product. Letting go of the idea that whatever painting I'm working on has to be "good" is so much harder than I imagined. But as soon as I abandon care about how the painting comes out, the results are 100% improved. And that feeling of letting go is scary, then fantastically freeing! Empowering! And so much fun. It all leaves me a little breathless.  

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By The Roadside (Two versions)

Last Fall Bill and I went apple picking at an orchard in Connecticut. I took a picture of these trees by the road because I liked the layers of color, green(s), yellow, orange. Layers of color is something I have been exploring more. An artist I am  continuously inspired by is Joan Mitchell. Her expressive use of color and the way she layers color to create depth. Without painting shapes to describe a leaf or a flower, you still know that you are looking at a field of sunflowers. I attempted to do something similar in the second painting. Using less detail, concentrating more on layers of color. It;s still difficult for me to totally leave the original image behind though. I'm still working on that. Click here to see the paintings on the website.

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