Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Will work for FUN!

I went into the studio yesterday evening hungry for some colors, so I grabbed glass and cut up some blues, greens and browns, cleaned them and dumped them onto a sheet of paper. I looked at the pile and a light went off in my head. When I first started fusing I had had an idea of making an openwork piece, with gaps between the individual pieces. I'd made a couple tries at it but they hadn't looked good enough to fire. Now there was one sitting in front of me. With a little bit of rearranging, they turned into what I took out of my kiln this morning:

If you half-close your eyes, you can see my back yard in here!

I noticed with one of the other pieces I blogged about yesterday that it was the culmination of another idea that I had to iterate on several times before I got one that was recognizable as my original idea. Several other of the pieces that led up to it were interesting in themselves, just not what I had been aiming for. But they spun off other ideas to try to develop. That got me thinking about how often that had happened in my painting where I would have an idea of an image and work it up into a painting, only to have the result not really embody what I had imagined to begin with. But the paintings took so long that I would always figure that it was as close as I would be able to get, and rather than keep working on that idea I would go off in a new direction.

That reminded me very much of watching Pablo Picasso working in the excellent video I believe I have written about before, The Mystery Of Picasso. He reworked everything in the video as he painted it, constantly changing and revamping, wiping out and repainting a dozen times, or painting over, or throwing out and starting all over. I wonder if that was the issue with him, that he was trying to get closer to his starting idea. It might not be. Robert Burridge, if you've ever watched any of his videos (and if you have not, I recommend them highly) seems to pull stuff out of his hat as he goes, with or without an an actual beginning idea. He'll start with a thread of an idea, or hint of a thread of an idea.

I was taking some of these pieces down to Howden Gallery this morning, where they are now for sale, priced from $15 to $30, and started thinking about what I would answer if someone asked me, "Now that you're doing glass, are you going to keep painting?" I wasn't sure what the correct answer would be, but on the way back home I was thinking about the glass colors, and got an idea for another ink painting that I'll be doing soon. So, I guess Art feeds Art, and ideas come from everything you do! Or as Robert Burridge says, "No matter what the question is, the answer is always 'YES!'"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Passion takes a hand

A 1.5"x5" piece with both transparent and opal glass in garden colors—
blues, lots of greens, and a bit of pink and red.

One of my first rings, also a mix of transparent and opal glass.
A shot of warm color, like orange juice on a cold morning.

I've been having so much fun fusing. I just finished my 14th firing, a different style piece composed of overlapped small rectangles filling in a circular shape. It has to cool in the kiln for 6 more hours, so I won't see it till tomorrow morning—I'm not staying up till 2am! I've tried a couple different shapes and more new color combinations. Yesterday I spent a while making wire loops for them and monofilament hangers, and today, for the first time, I took the two pieces above outside and hung them on a garden pole in between rain showers. I love looking at them outside. The spots of bright color against the cloudy skies and the dark trees are really welcome additions to my garden. I want more out there, more pieces, and larger and more complex. I'm thinking of the single pieces as Garden Jewelry, for poor leafless trees that have to stand there naked all winter. But I have fences too, that can be decorated, and more garden poles, eaves, and low-hanging fir branches that can use some decoration too. The rings have the lovely habit of rotating slowly in the breeze, so the colors change a bit as the light hits from different angles.

Here are a few more pieces:

One of my friends said this one reminds her of that formica countertop
that came out in the 1950's that had little orange and turquoise boomerangs all over it.

A couple of the orange rectangles surprised me by turning dark red during the firing.

I thought that maybe from a distance, the clear might disappear and the blue pieces would look like they were floating in air.

The warmth of earth tones, the forest in summer.

When I was doing a firing a couple days ago, I had a really interesting moment. I was thinking about how playing with the glass was giving me an opportunity to reduce my work from painting to the two simplest and most important elements I had craved in my painting—color and shape. Creating good paintings requires so many more things, unless you go to color fields, which I came close to in my last ink painting. But with these small glass pieces, color and shape are all I'm working with. And as I thought that, it was as if a window opened in my side and I could see and feel a place in my core that didn't want to do anything but make colors and shapes, and it wanted to make piece after piece. No doubt, no thoughts, no emotion even, just this fierce drive—to work, to make, to do this one thing. I've felt the effects of that desire to create before, but I had never seen that core impulse in myself,  completely intense and unyielding, as an instinct might be.

So now I know what's making me do this. It's hard-wired into me.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Painting with glass

Funny how every now and then you get up in the morning and do something different. One morning a couple of weeks ago I drove up to Portland and bought 15 pounds of scrap glass from a couple of professional glass artists, and ended up cranking up my little HotShot kiln that I hadn't plugged in since I moved into this house five years ago. It took me two days to find all my tools and books and firing logs, but eventually I got everything together and started playing with my scraps. Having them already cut into small random pieces made it really easy to get started, I didn't need a plan or pattern, I just had an idea of which colors to start with. I made a pile I liked:

Now I had an arrangement I liked, but it was too big to fire in my little kiln, so I cut the pieces down to this:

It was late night by that time so I went to sleep thinking of colors and shapes and different designs I could try, and right after breakfast the next morning I set up a chair and table in the garage so I could babysit my first firing in over five years. My brave little kiln fired right up and worked perfectly, and later that afternoon I was able to take out my piece and enjoy it:

I love glass! I love the colors, I love how it melts and flows together, I love the technical aspects and the need for focus and attention, and I really love how it adds light and beauty to a space. The transparency or translucency gives you another parameter to play with. It's also really fun to have something you can hold in your hands, and hang indoors or out.

I had so much fun I did four more firings in the next 6 days!

Here's another piece in the kiln, ready for firing:

And here's my latest piece, which I fired yesterday:

Having all these colors of glass, not to mention iridescence and dichroism and surface textures as well to play with is just like being a sugar junkie in a candy store. I think it might be addictive. One thing it's great for is playing with color in a free and fun way. But like the ink paintings, there's a need for precise control during the process and there's waiting involved, so it's no instant gratification thing. Patience is good, and it's something I find myself working on all the time.

Another great benefit to living in NW Oregon is that Portland is home to two premier manufacturers of glass for fusing, Uroboros and Bullseye, and probably hundreds of glass artists, many of whom are constantly pushing the boundaries of glassworking.

So I've got me another fascinating indoor hobby to work on through the winter. I hope to have a garden full of glass goodies by spring!