Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Keeping focus, making decisions

Ever notice that when you're trying to make strides on many fronts you end up standing still? There are projects and tasks pulling in all directions lately and the more I need to stay focused, the harder it is to do. So while I'm tackling other pressing projects, my art-focus consists of pondering the process of choosing a subject. What makes a composition interesting to me?

I recently heard author Mary Pipher on NPR talk about choosing the subject of her latest book, Women Rowing North.* She said that she really has to be interested in a subject on a personal level to spend the kind of time required to write a book. The same can be said for painting. If I'm not personally engaged with the subject, I'm not likely to give it the attention needed to create an interesting and well-developed, representational painting.

So, while I may not personally connect with ceramic chicks and chrome coffee pots there is something evocative about the scene in this painting that resonates. Chick Please, creates a scenario reminiscent of 1950's diners complete with the ever-present coffee pot, thick dinnerware and vintage wallpaper. It's a nostalgic moment with a touch of humor. Coming from a large family, it was a rare treat to eat at a local diner or... Howard Johnson's. Remember that place? Fine dining for us back in the day!

vintage diner scene, representational painting, American Women Artists
Chick Please, 11x14" ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze

I'm very pleased to say that Chick Please was selected for the American Women Artists' National exhibit at Steamboat Art Museum. I look forward to seeing the exhibition in Colorado and taking part in the events, especially AWA's Symposium on Women in the Arts, which I know will be an inspiring and informative experience.

But, here's the thing... I had painted a portrait, Zsa Zsa Reigns, for the Steamboat exhibit because I really thought it fit the show's prospectus. Then, in the process of applying I noticed two works could be submitted so I added Chick Please at the last minute. And that's the one they accepted! At first I was so disappointed about Zsa Zsa that I almost forgot to be excited about Chick Please! But, really, I am thrilled and honored to be included.

And the rejection gave me time to revisit Zsa Zsa Reigns which, out of necessity, was painted from a photo I'd taken of the model. Portraits are outside my comfort zone and working from a photo is not part of my painting process. Taking a closer look, without the pressure of a submission deadline, it was clear that it fell a little short of my expectations. So I re-worked the skin tones and values in general and made subtle changes to her expression which gave her gaze more intensity - the very thing that had drawn me to this pose in the first place. I think Zsa Zsa is now reigning with even greater confidence. I'll let you know how she fares with her next submission.
 black woman portrait, original oil painting
Zsa Zsa Reigns, 16x20" ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

As I've mentioned, my paintings often tell stories and sometimes a double entendre invites the viewer to make their own interpretation. So, back in the studio... a vintage balance scale called for more chicks in a painting. Naturally, it's titled Chicks and Balances. The bevy of chicks facing off against the big chicken was so exciting they practically painted themselves. As for the big chicken - beware of smooth surfaces, they're very hard to nail down. (Feel free to draw your own analogies.)

original oil painting still life, representational art, judicial system
Chicks and Balances, 9x12" ©2019 Dorothy Lorenze

I loved every minute of this one. The chicks were a joy to paint and getting interlocking pieces of old metal to look like they were actually up to the job at hand was equally frustrating and thrilling. This painting just tickles me. As soon as I think of more puns these chicks are likely to make another appearance.

After a few of these daunting compositions I tend to give myself a breather with a simpler, small organic subject like fruits and veggies. I don't have a new fruit/veg painting ready to share so I'll just post  these fairly recent ones: Heirloom & Hubbard and Mandarin Rising. I like the contrast in color and texture between this lumpy, warty squash and the juicy, plump tomato. And although the mandarin orange's leaves were no longer glossy, she is still stately, proud and standing tall.

original oil painting, representational art
Heirloom & Hubbard, 6x8" ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
original oil painting, representational art
Mandarin Rising, 8x8" ©2018 Dorothy Lorenze
The stories behind the compositions and current availability of these paintings is on my website and updated regularly. Some may be "on loan" at shows so if there is one you are interested in, keep checking back. Or, better yet, email me if you'd like to be among the first to know when a painting becomes available.

Welcome to all the new subscribers! Thank you for joining me on my artistic journey. Feel free to comment or ask questions and of course to forward this newsletter to anyone you think might find it interesting.

*ps - I haven't read Mary Pipher's Women Rowing North yet, but I plan to. Sounds interesting.

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