A View inside my Studio

It’s a Saturday, P1020635when we were expecting six inches of snow to be on the ground, but no such luck. While I’m ruminating on deeper subjects to write about here, I thought I’d give a glimpse into what’s on the walls and under way in the basement.

I am usually working on more than one piece simultaneously.  It’s a bit like cooking a complex meal.  You are aware of various things simmering, waiting to be prepped and you jump in when something is needed. You are aware of the sequence of steps you take as they overlap and build towards some kind of conclusion. You act on impulse, you act on experience. P1020647

The two large pieces might eventually be stretched. And the small ones on the right are a continuation of the “Grasslands” series.  (bonus- I recently got a new cart to store painting supplies and it rolls around so nice and is just the right height for me)

Working with oils asks for patience and a lot of reworking the way I use it.  The larger pieces with so many stalks and movements in space also call for keeping it all straight in my conscious mind. I am creating a maze of overlapping elements, and also monitoring the overall movement/balance/spatial qualities/color…etc…etc.  What appears to be spontaneous and instinctual can also ask for many small decisions- over and over.

Over-under-over-under, repeat.

evolution of a painting…

another piece that might have seemed finished but really wasn’t.  Moving out of former studio into the one at home, there were bound to be paintings that I hadn’t totally wrapped up, but had to get out of there anyway.  This was one. Rewrites are no problem for me!

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I have been working quite a lot with taking things away, trying to find a balance between the tangled elements and an atmospheric, poetic space that envelopes them.

This also marks the end point of these paintings in some way that I probably don’t yet understand. I can imagine that my palette will become darker. I much prefer richer deeper colors,colors that you can’t quite name- and it’s winter, so airy bright atmospheres feel a bit odd.

But there will now ensue lots of drawing, hopefully some monotypes, and some serious ruminating on all sorts of ideas that will lead to the next batch of work. Whether that’s going to be painting or not- I am open to find out.

About that painting I thought was finished…..

Blue Winter Vine 30x32 oil ©2012 Nanci Erskine - finished? yes! (color is also more accurate in this shot)


…it’s happened again, another piece that I felt was wrapped up has been up on the painting wall again.

earlier version - with annoying leaf at top and other things I eliminated.... can you find them?

I know how this happens now. Aside from the fact that revision and editing is one of the pleasures of the working process for me.

It seems that I can’t get enough distance on things when working on them- either because I don’t allow myself enough time for simple garden variety rumination, or physical space (until recently,  my studio was about 12 feet long on a good day).

But there is also the space and distance of time- being able to look with fresh eyes at something that hasn’t quite revealed itself.

When I used to teach beginning drawing, and wanted people to really see what they had done, while we talked about the work, I would usually take them out into the hallway.   We’d lean the thing up against a wall, and then walk back about 20 feet to look at an 18 x 24″ drawing.  Now, that is some distance, but it almost takes on another identity. Something glimpsed… all the parts of the whole more visible…. formal qualities and elements standing at attention.

Hard for me to do that now- but, it seems to happen once I photograph a piece and then see it in a much smaller scale on the laptop screen.  Then the faults that are working against what I intended are more blatant.  This doesn’t happen every time, but it’s my version of looking at the painting backwards in a mirror. Flipping it on it’s side or upside down, whatever you employ to hit the refresh button.

So, now I am happy with the painting, and also with the other two – one finished, one almost revised- that are still living on the painting wall.

Authors often talk about the revision process- how many drafts they need to burn through before the prose is clear and the flow of the narrative works.  To me this is the same thing- not being complacently satisfied with what I’ve made, just because it’s a picture.  But not letting it be anything less than a successful painting.

ruh roh….

Does this ever happen to you… you bring some piece of work home and it gets stored, and then you bring it out, and it gets the thrashing it deserves?

I think I’ve been mulling over the work that I did this past year or so, and feeling like it lacked some kind of courage or freedom… like everything was too controlled and contrived.  Starting a new painting in a new environment (see previous post) ie: my basement…. I am probably now being influenced by the fact that I have more physical space to move around in.  Maybe before, I was thinking about being “tasteful” or something equally insidious…

Can’t quite put my finger on it, but I either need to start over, and get a new direction, or give this one a bit more ooomph!    So I went and started painting into it again…. not a new phenomenon- I am historically someone who reworks things … alot.

I think I miss the sinister, moody and seductive qualities of my earlier industrial paintings.

And maybe there’s a way to find that but with vines/botanical instruments, we’ll see.

I want to try and get back to just painting what interests me, not what I think will appeal to anyone else.  Now that I have a stretch of the summer with no commitments, it could happen.


look ma, no fumes!

detail from reworked version of "Autumn something or other...." might need a new title...

all these years, I had assumed that painting with oils and paint thinner in the basement was a recipe for stinking up the rest of the house… but come to find out- not so! At least if I keep the sloshing around to a minimum.

I have queried the other resident of the house, and he says, “nope, I can’t smell anything”

So now that I am finally settled in, and have dispensed with some other obligations- the painting can begin! Yippee

another new one

12 x 16 oil on canvas 2011

Forgot to include this one is the last painting update. I have always given great thought to color I use, as a defining element in each painting. But interestingly, my palette seems to be evolving into a more limited one- yet, perhaps the subtle shifts in color are more important. Hey- I only go where my curiosity takes me!