cleaning the studio...

...and other adventures in art

thinking out loud

I have some work in the Take Aways show at Pajaro Valley Arts Gallery right now—I’ve been participating in this show for a few years, and I do a special series for it each year.

Because all the pieces for this show are under $300, and the artists are expected to replenish pieces as they are sold, my working process is quite different from normal.  I’ve settled into a process that I call “thinking out loud“.  The pieces aren’t exactly sketches, and they aren’t exactly macquettes for something bigger to come.  Instead, they are explorations of some themes in which I find myself currently interested.  I might take it further, or these series may be the end of it.  It’s an enjoyable process and it leads me in new directions.

Because this year’s series followed directly on what I did last year, I’ll explain that one first.  Nothing But Blue Skies was comprised of two components, birds and skies; buyers could mix and match individual pieces as they liked.  But I always envisioned them hanging together as seen here.

The “skies” are small encaustic panel constructions that are framed with a construction material that is stiffened with a specialty paint, and the “birds” are mixed-media with that same paint.

This year, I worked with the same themes and materials but in a different fashion.  Again, there are birds and skies.  Technically these are two series, but, again, they hang together.  Buyers can mix and match pieces or select just one.  The birds are titled North. South. East. West. and the skies are titled A View From the Other Side. I’ve included side-angle shots also to give a better indication of depth and shape.  The series totals eight pieces at the moment: four skies and four birds.  But I think I’ll continue to work on the ideas behind A View From the Other Side.

another barn in Iceland (and another, and another)

There are plenty of barns in Iceland.  And there is plenty of appeal for me in a barn: a long, low, simple building, a blocky shape dropped onto the landscape with little innate beauty.  Its utility is not obvious from the outside, and any windows are placed too high to peer into (or out of).  There’s not much there to see, and a lot to overlook, which leaves me with plenty to work with.  It’s almost like a blank canvas.

Here are a few new paintings, on the small side:

I’ve also just finished this large-scale drawing, which joins a suite of other drawings of similar size and subject matter. The other drawings can be found on this page, along with more work in my Iceland/Ísland series.

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Talisman (VIII), Charcoal, Chalk, Wax, Pencil, Oil on Paper

Talisman (VIII), Charcoal, Chalk, Wax, Pencil, Oil on Paper, 34″ x 80″, 2016

This next one is encaustic on paper, but because the image itself is such a flat rendition of a barn, I wanted it to sit flat on the wall. So that ruled out a conventional frame that adds depth. Instead, I made a rust-patina steel frame that screws the drawing directly onto the wall.

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Talisman (IX), Encaustic on Paper with Steel Frame

Talisman (IX), Encaustic on Paper with Steel Frame, 27″ x 47″, 2017

Here are close-ups of the frame, and a photo showing the surface sheen and texture of the encaustic:

And, finally, something a little new, perhaps moving me into another direction: a barn with the addition of a figure. I haven’t done much figurative work for a while, so it was interesting to go back to the figure; I found that I wanted to work it in a flattened manner like the landscape work I’ve been doing.

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Crime Scene, oil on canvas

Crime Scene, oil on canvas, 40″ x 48″, 2017

alliance (I through V)

Another collaborative sculpture: this time with Jamie Abbott, my studio neighbor.  We are frequently in and out of each other’s studios and often discuss our work with each other.  We’ve often thought that a collaborative effort might be interesting because of the parallels that we see between our work.  We settled on a collaborative effort for Sculpture Is: 2017 In The Garden at Sierra Azul Nursery in Watsonville.

We started by thinking about forms that we are each drawn to, trying to recognize where they overlap.  But we also had to be careful to not veer too much in one direction–towards Jamie’s forms or towards my forms–because this is first and foremost a collaborative effort.  In the best of all possible worlds, we would each learn something new in the process, and see something through the other person’s eyes.  It’s the magic of collaboration…becoming tuned in to the way that another artist sees and thinks about the world.  We collected some photos of chrysalises because those sorts of closed forms would make sense within the garden setting of this show.

Like the post I did on another recent collaborative sculpture, I probably have too many photos in this post. But I like to look at process photos from other artists, so here are ours.  If you open any photo, you’ll get a captioned slideshow that starts from that point.

This show is still up for another month, and there are many wonderful pieces, so go take a look!

 

3 + 7

“3 + 7” is the name of the collaborative sculpture that Jamie Abbott, Roy Holmberg and I did for the upcoming show Art in the Arboretum: Environmental Installations at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  This exhibit was beautifully curated by Susana Arias.

We have a reception this Saturday, May 20, 3-6pm.  An announcement can be found here.  This will be a great time to come see the show and meet the artists.

Now, on to all these photos.  I know that common sense dictates that I have included too many of them, but it was a complicated project with three artists and many steps.  Anyway, I know that I myself like to hear about what other artists do in the studio, so I’m hoping that you do too.

If you open a photo, you’ll get a captioned slideshow.  Or you can simply view the thumbnails and take a guess what we’re doing.  If that’s too much effort(!), just ignore the photos altogether, and come see our sculpture in person!  We’d love to tell you all about it at the reception.

We have a full statement about the piece at the arboretum, but you can also find it here.

 

how it’s made

 

original artwork by Barbara Downs, Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

Making My Own Paradise, encaustic/oil/mixed-media on panel with rust-patina steel frame, 56″ x 81″ x 3″, 2016

I finished this piece, Making My Own Paradise, a few months ago, but, although I’d taken a lot of in-progress photos, I didn’t post many of them.  It was a complex creation and assembly process…it took over a year from start to finish…but I am happy with the resulting piece.

Here are plenty of pictures and some descriptions of what it is that I’m showing you. Click on that first photo and you can scroll through the rest of them with captions. And more photos of the finished piece can be found here, along with other pieces from the Iceland/Ísland series.

spring studio sale at mission industrial studios

We’re having a Spring Studio Sale at Mission Industrial Studios!

Where: Mission Industrial Studios, 2573 Mission St., Santa Cruz
When: May 6-7, 1pm-6pm

Many of you have visited me at Open Studios, but this is not the same sort of event.  My studio is currently very much in a working state, with plastic sheeting on my working walls and projects in progress (in other words, I’m not exactly cleaning up!). I have pieces in progress, projects that I’m contemplating, and plenty of finished work, both old and new. I’m offering discounts on some pieces, hoping to find the right home for them. And ten of my neighbors are also open, so it is a big event for us.

I’ll be showing some older pieces, like these…

and newer pieces, like these…

I hope to see you there!

 

making my own paradise

Some of you saw this piece at Open Studios in October, still in need of a frame.  Finally!  It’s finished!

original artwork by Barbara Downs, Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

Making My Own Paradise, encaustic/oil/mixed-media on panel with rust-patina steel frame, 56″ x 81″ x 3″, 2016

Making My Own Paradise started several years ago, during a summer trip to Iceland. I saw this barn regularly on a trail, perched slightly above my eye level as I walked uphill towards it. From this spot, it has no visible doors or windows, and it perfectly touches the triad of earth and horizon and sky.

I photographed it over several years, in all seasons and weather, and then I started drawing and painting it back home in my studio. I became a bit obsessed with The Barn.

It took on a personal meaning to me, reminding me of things incomprehensible and unknowable. Its physical form seems to exist only to illustrate this abstract concept. What is inside? From my view on the trail it is impossible to know. I can guess, I can believe, but I cannot be certain. I’m not allowed to enter it, or at least not yet.

Of course I know I can walk around to the other side and peer in, but that isn’t the point. I’m viewing it and painting it from my spot on the trail, where it is impenetrable.

What. Is. Behind. That. Wall.

That’s the genesis of the piece, but the process of making it was lengthy; it turned out to be a large and complex project. The wax part—the painting—caused the least struggle. But there was also interminable prep and finishing work.  At one point my studio neighbor pointed out to me that I had taken a natural process (rust, for the steel frame) and turned it into a laborious multi-week process. But it had to be right!

It has given to me as much as I’ve given to it though. There were some surprising discoveries in the making of it that spur me to some future work. And I like seeing it in my studio for now, awaiting a trip to stARTup LA in a few weeks.

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

side view of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame, 56″ x 81″ x 3″, 2016

 

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

closeup of top panel

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

closeup of center panel

original artwork by Barbara Downs, detail of Making My Own Paradise, Encaustic/Oil/Mixed-Media on Panel with Rust-Patina Steel Frame

closeup of bottom panel

stARTup LA

I’m excited to have been selected as one of the participating artists at stARTup Fair LA at the end of January 2017.  Click on the image below to go to their website for more details.

I’ll be showing pieces from my Iceland/Ísland series as well as other recent work.  I have a few extra admission passes; please contact me if you’re interested.

 

the fetal position

For that popular-vote majority of voters who, like myself, are unhappy with the results of the presidential election, I offer these figures in the fetal position.  That’s all, nothing more.

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Haven (I), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas

Haven (I), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas (hung directly on wall with nails though grommets), 72″ x 106″, 2012

 

Original artwork by Barbara Downs, Haven (II), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas

Haven (II), Acrylic/Mixed-Media on Unstretched Canvas (hung directly on wall with nails though grommets), 70″ x 107″, 2012

 

 

an inviting leaf

My sculpture that is in Art in the Arboretum: Color (see my previous post) started life as a wall sculpture, as photographed here.

Now installed outdoors and low to the ground in a garden setting, it’s a different sort of sculpture entirely.  It’s dramatic on the wall, and looks almost opaque to me, but outside near the ground it’s much quieter and the mesh looks more transparent than in these photos.  It blends in well with it’s surroundings. I like it in both places, for different reasons, but seeing it in a new way gives me some ideas about working again with this steel-mesh material.

 

An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60" x 60" x 36", 2009

An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60″ x 60″ x 36″, 2009, photo by RR Jones

detail of An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60" x 60" x 36", 2009

detail of An Inviting Leaf, Painted Steel and Wire Mesh, 60″ x 60″ x 36″, 2009, photo by RR Jones

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