Yesterday was “Groundhog Day” in the United States, and those who are enduring a long harsh winter may be wanting to get a jump on Spring. There’s not a finer way to do that than to experiment with an Abstracted Floral!
My painting above “Wild Daffodil” was inspired by fields of daffodils that dot the countryside in Oregon. You can see where abandoned home sites were by scanning the beautiful green fields for waves of bright yellow, naturalized daffodils. The cheerful yellow always seems at odds with the fact that a home once stood there and now is gone.
I love the flowers that come from the fields – they are often tattered by weather, and many have grown away from their cultivated lineage to be wild, multi-petaled and blowzy. This painting would brighten up a bedroom, office, library, dining or living room. I love the drama that the dark background adds.
I used an app called IArtView to show how this work would look in a couple of different settings. A wonderful feature is you can also upload a photo of your wall and visualize how it would look in your home! Try it out!
Inspiration for Abstract Floral Paintings
If you’re looking for other floral inspiration, check out my Pinterest board. You’ll find interesting abstractions by some of the following 6 talented artists:
Jimmy Wright: This artist emphasizes the fluidity and motion of petals, and comes up with some pretty unusual and subtle color emphasis too.
Winifred Nicholson: I love the unified color in this simplified still life. You can almost smell the lily of the valley.
Jake Muirhead: Converting a colorful Iris to black and white, Jake also adds drama and personality using line and simplifying the setting.
Scott Conary: Scott’s textural paint application and emphasis on pure vs. subdued color make me want to touch his work. They also touch me!
Ophelia Pang uses bold and repeated shapes to create entertaining and playful abstractions.
When I teach repeat students, I’m often asked if I’m saying all new things from previous workshops. Often I’m repeating something that I’ve said earlier, but the student did not internalize the information. It’s always surprising how we don’t hear advice until we are ready to implement it. We often don’t even take our own advice! I think this proves the value of repeating classes or workshops. As we grow in our artwork, we become more ready to absorb information or put it into practice.
“Listening is a positive act: you have to put yourself out to do it.”
I filmed a time-lapse of my process for “Summerfall.” I didn’t talk during the filming. My inspiration for the painting was the farming term Summerfall. It means to plant in late spring in preparation for a late fall harvest. Planting this way is unusual and farmers sometimes resort to it because a fall planting failed. As I worked, I thought about colors for summer like blues & violets and colors for fall like reds and golds. If you’re receiving this post via email, click over to the website to view the video here!
The early parts of the video show the painting with the top on the right, to better fit the video format. I tried to lay in the layers in a sort of x-shaped movement, falling from the high horizon line. You can see this in the earlier parts of the video best. As sometimes happens, I felt that mid-way through the process my values got a bit too dark. My solution in this case was to add metallic silver and opaque blue and yellows to lighten up areas of the work.
My repeated Mantra
One thing students who are listening hear me say over and over is to paint your own personal experience. I must say this multiple times in each workshop. It’s always amazing to me how much inspiration I can still find in this series about my rural upbringing and the farm.
I hope you’ll enjoy watching this peek into my process. There was so much idle time toward the end stages of the process while I agonized over what to do. Those finishing touches require so much courage and contemplation that I don’t think I could do them while worrying about a camera!
In other news, I’m preparing for upcoming workshops. My good friend, Ruth Ellen Hoag, will be here teaching at the beginning of February. I always enjoy painting with her and learning how her mind works! After that, we are expecting new lambs here on the farm. Then I’m headed south to Santa Barbara to study with Skip Lawrence and to teach a workshop of my own. It’s going to be a busy spring when you throw in all the shows I’m doing… I hope you can join me!
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As procrastinators go, I would rate my ability to ‘do it later’ as above average. That doesn’t mean that I don’t aspire to become a better procrastinator. This trait is vital to my success as an artist. You may be wondering: ‘Is she serious?!’
Yes! Let me explain. Artists must wear many ‘hats’ to sustain their small business. Marketing, networking, framing, presentation, book-keeping, graphic design, reproductions, and (in my case) teaching. I forgot to mention one other very important thing: making the art! It is easy to lose sight of the importance of regular studio time when faced with that long list of business oriented work. Add in household duties or a small farm, as I do, and you have many choices for how to spend the few productive hours in a day.
One way that I cope is to joke with myself about being a ‘good procrastinator.’ I’ve even set goals to become better at procrastination. I’m not talking about wasting my time… I’m just choosing to put off things that can wait till less productive hours. For example, I can do laundry in the evening when my brain is fried. Or I might postpone writing a blog post until I’ve finished new work. Another great way to procrastinate is to put off running errands until you can consolidate several into one trip. This is especially beneficial for those of us who live far from a Metro area.
In all seriousness, I like to enter my studio with the goal of just fooling around for a little while. Giving myself strict productivity goals often seems to backfire. Forcing productivity turns off the part of my brain that just wants to play with color. Being responsible is not for day-dreamers like me. (At least not while I’m in the studio.) I love Mary Oliver’s take on the Artist’s Task – part of the collection of essays in Upstream. Read her view on solitude and responsibility here. Un-interrupted by my more responsible self, I’m free to chase ideas to my heart’s content.
I’m not good enough at procrastination to go full blown ‘Instant Gratification Monkey’ like Tim Urban. If you haven’t seen his TED talk, do yourself a favor and hop on over to take a listen. This is the self-defeating phenomenon described in Steven Pressfield’s War of Art – when someone is resisting doing the difficult thing. Ultimately I’m trying to fool myself out of ‘resistance.’ If I can trick my mind into feeling like I’m playing hooky from important jobs, then the artwork becomes the instant gratification!
Are You Procrastinators?
When do you procrastinate? Does it help you or hurt you? How? I’m fascinated by how each of us self-manage. If I were a negative person, I’d be beating myself up right now. I’ve started 6 blog posts today, and finished only one of them. However, I choose to look at the glass as half-full. I have the start of 6 fabulous essays ready to be fleshed out. I’m excited to add to the ideas that came up while I wrote this post.
I’ve put off the real reason for this post long enough! I’ve been in the studio and here is the latest and greatest. This new abstraction was inspired by a memory of chasing the cows when I was a kid. Our fences on the farm were more like suggestions. The cows frequently escaped their pasture and wandered around. This summer day, it was my designated job to get them back into the pasture. We had seen the herd near a slough in the center of a large field – probably 200 acres. Normally I’d do this job on foot, but I was getting older and smarter, so I took my horse! I was about 11 years old, and riding bareback.
As I approached the slough, the scent of wild mint wafted through the warm air and I felt happy. Suddenly, the neighbor’s giant Polled Hereford bull ambled out of the thicket of brush and lily pads. Fear and panic surged through me as I quickly decided that even on horseback I didn’t want to tangle with this creature. I did not hesitate: I escaped with my horse and called for reinforcements.
Trying to paint this memory, I knew that I wanted the peaceful and fragrant greens, contrasted by the sinister blacks and bolts of red fear. I tried to channel both the peace and the fear – thinking about a poem by Jane Hirshfield titled “Each Moment a White Bull Steps Shining into the World.”
Give it a read, then let me know your thoughts about the poem, the painting or procrastination. I hope your New Year’s resolution involves hanging out with procrastinators like me! Finally, don’t wait: tomorrow is the final day to enter my giveaway! Click here to enter: http://rutharmitage.com/solstice-giveaway/
When we were kids in the 70’s, Flower Power was all the rage. Even though we grew up in a farmhouse from the 1800’s, my mom made one of our bedrooms into a brilliant, day-glo, funky room with flower-child wallpaper. Memories of that bedroom inspired me to make this painting. Although it was a tiny room, the wallpaper made it bright and sunny. We had sheets on our bunkbeds with artwork by Peter Max, and my mom even painted the wood floorboards with psychedelic flowers in hot pink and orange.
The painting is a bit subdued compared to the riot of color in that room. But you can still see the curves and lines of the flower petals and the bright coral-pink that I began with as an underpainting. I especially love the little bits of black in the focal area. I have a vivid memory of reading on the top bunk and rubbing my grubby, dirty feet on the papered ceiling. Those were barefoot summer days. I’m sure my mother was revolted – that made it even more satisfying. I must have been nearly a teenager. How did she survive 4 girls!?
How does it feel to you?
I hope the final image feels a bit nostalgic, graceful, yet real. Let me know your thoughts, or share a memory from the 70’s. My friend, Pam, commented on facebook: “Beautiful: imagination, movement and fairy tales.” I like that!
“Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
Objects and Their Influence on my Work
I have been thinking of all the flood victims in Texas this week. I am trying to imagine the devastation they must be feeling and the loss. While our homes contain so many meaningful objects; the familiarity and meaning that they carry can’t be replaced. So, in an effort to make a small difference in the recovery from Hurricane Harvey, I’m donating 50% of any sales through my website from now through Labor Day weekend.
Help for Texas
If you’ve had your eye on a painting, now is a great time to add one to your collection, because your purchase will help relief efforts for those in Texas.
Speaking of water: an oxbow in our river bottom that was cut off from the stream inspired me to create the new painting below. As a kid I loved to explore the woods at the edge of the river. This small pond was a sure place to see ducks, turtles and other natives like frogs and salamanders. Those early years of solo exploration seem to be important to my development as an artist. I would spend hours looking at ferns and moss, small ponds, polliwogs, and wildflowers. Traveling there in my memory gives me peaceful relaxation.
I hope the colors in this painting suggest the quiet forest and reflection of the water surrounded by ferns, moss and wildflowers.
Another reason I’ve been thinking of objects recently is that I’m preparing for my project for PDX-CSA.
PDX-CSA Season 4 sales are open and project summaries are on the website for your perusal. Pre-sales fund the creation of new artwork and you gain access to the creative process as ideas become reality.
The variety of projects and the quality of the artists are certainly terrific! But, don’t take our word for it – see the project details for yourself. Or better yet, talk to the artists and see examples of their artwork in person at our Meet the Artists party.
Meet the Artists
If you’re curious about the other artists participation, please join us! Each of us will be bringing a small piece of work similar to what we will be doing for our Community Supported Art project! Learn more here: PDX-CSA
Meet the Artists
Wednesday, September 6th, 6-8pm
Wagner Studio, 1522 N Humboldt St,
Portland, OR, 97217
Which objects speak to you?
I’ve been going through some of the rich materials I’ve collected for assemblage to identify the objects that would work as additions to my Oil & Wax paintings. Each one tells its own story and suggests its own color palette. I’m thinking about what kind of colors I might want to use, and whether the objects should be fairly consistent or varied. I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Here are a few objects that have been calling to me:
Do you prefer the shells or the driftwood? Should one of my pieces have that little metal tray or the brush? What about that 45 record? Leave me a comment and let me know… or, even better, sign up to become a collector through PDX-CSA! Click here to get your name on the list.
A new image in Oil & Wax… this one was inspired by the old oil heater that we used to have on the farm. It sat below the floor boards and the heat came up through a metal grate. I have memories of standing over it with warm rumbling oil-scented air filling the skirt of my flannel nightgown.
Years after the old beast was removed and replaced with an electric heat pump, I repeatedly found myself leaning against the doorway in an useless attempt to warm or comfort myself. Can you see the faint outline of a nightgown in the detail shot?
I love the Van Gogh quote… and I’m finding it especially poignant because I’ve just enjoyed a visit with my good friend and neighbor Judy Wise.
It was so encouraging to talk art and share works in process with her! I’ve been finishing quite a few smaller pieces for two upcoming shows, so mark your calendars! I think these shows function as a kind of hearth to warm ourselves in the early chill of autumn. The camaraderie and excitement are contagious.
1. Local 14 Art Show & Sale
September 28 – October 1, 2017 – At the Left Bank Annex, Portland, Oregon – Directions and more information here.
October 14 & 15, 21 & 22, 2017 from 10am – 5pm each day
This is a self-guided tour. Over 100 artists welcome the public during the tour dates. You can download a mobile app, or buy a tour guide at the following retailers. New this year: a ‘teaching artist’ section, listing participating artists who offer classes and workshops!
I have 2 tour guides left to sell… let me know if you want one! Or pick one up at these locations:
New Seasons, Dick Blick, Artists and Craftsman Warehouse, Portland Art Museum, Madrona Hill Cafe, Guardino Gallery, Bullseye Glass, Copy Pilot
You can also get in on some local ‘action’ by signing up for PDX-CSA. Click to read about the projects from myself and 5 other curated artists. The pre-sales generated between now and September 17th will fun the creation of a limited number of artworks specially made for this project.
It’s like Patreon and your favorite Organic Farm had a love-child. You choose the artist or artist pair that you like, and follow the progress of the work from concept through completion. If you choose a pairing, you’ll receive a discount on the artwork. I’m paired with the fantastic Kirista Trask. I think our paintings will look magical together!
The artworks made for these projects are only available through PDX-CSA. Mine will incorporate found objects with abstract paintings in Oil & Cold Wax medium. They are designed to be affordable and collectible! Click here to get in while you can! I love receiving your comments and I’m honored when you share my posts with friends. Thanks!