cleaning the studio...

...and other adventures in art


Original artwork by Barbara Downs, The Daily Bird, Encaustic/Oil/Photo on Panel

I’m going to be cantankerous and withhold The Daily Bird today so that I can write about painting instead.  And don’t think I don’t have the Daily Bird done.  Here’s a thumbnail, with a larger image coming tomorrow.

I’m spending all my time right now doing encaustic because I have an ever-nearing deadline for these 50 pieces, but I’m thinking about painting.

The in-progress paintings destined for my show in November are propped against the wall in my studio.  Not in the drying racks, but against the wall where I will see them every time I walk in. They are begging for attention.

Painting is a jealous mistress. I can spend my time doing other things, as long as it’s somehow about painting. You painters in the audience will know what I’m talking about. Painting can be all-encompassing. Everything I do in my art practice has some bearing on my painting.

And perhaps that’s why I don’t paint all the time. It can be claustrophobic and can easily become too self-referential, so I find myself needing to step away for a bit.

These 50-pieces-in-50-days encaustic pieces are, by their very nature, sketch-like. I quickly found that I can’t do one piece a day using my usual encaustic methodology. So these pieces became about other things. Composition and color.  Line and gesture. Capturing some essence of ‘birdness’. Representing the ambiguous nature of a single moment in time.

In many ways, they become more like my paintings.

On the left is a Daily Bird, 6″x6″ encaustic. On the right After the Fall, oil on canvas, 60″x36″. The color palettes, medium, and subject matter are different, but they both share a similar use of space, with the bird or the figure trapped within the geometry imposed on the picture plane.  Both have a sort of containment of the subject matter.

On the left, another Daily Bird, 6″x6″ encaustic. On the right, Repose II, oil on canvas, 28″x26″. In both of these, I was looking at a sort of off-kilter balance to the piece, and the use of gestural line in the two pieces is similar.

Saved for another day is a discussion of why my color palette is different in encaustic versus oil painting, and why I do figurative oil paintings but rarely do figurative encaustic. Don’t hold your breath, though…I have 28 more birds to do first.