Skip to main content

The enormous blank canvas

I knew I wanted some more Sutro Tower for the living room, and was especially eyeing the space above the funky fireplace for just such a thing.  I planned on getting a canvas, perhaps something a little larger than I usually work with.  Then a friend called to say they were in an art supply store that was closing and would I like any of the clearance items?  Turns out they had some crazy deals on canvases and without really thinking of the measurements, I quickly said yes to what sounded like something sufficiently largish.  Perfect!  When I went to pick it up and transport it home on the bus, it really hit home just how dang huge the thing was.

waiting at the bus stop

It was an awkward bus ride, mostly because it was so much more crowded than it should have been and no one seated around me seemed to comprehend my death-stares when they accidentally kept kicking my canvas.  But I finally got it home and quickly set to procrastinating over actually using it.  

The thing is, the largeness of the canvas (36"x48") meant I needed to figure out how to work at a larger scale than anything I'd done before (other than painting walls, and that really doesn't count, now does it?).  

I started painting when I started seminary, in 2000.  I'd been creative-writing this and that until that point, very rarely finishing anything, but when grad school started and suddenly I was inundated with academic writing, both the reading and writing of it, I just couldn't really stomach the idea of even more words.  So I turned to painting as an outlet, and it served me well.  It was a relief after all the mental gymnastics of theological studies to just use color.  I've never needed my painting to be my "thing" (like writing) so I'm way, way WAY more forgiving of the giant holes in skills that I have than I am in things I really want to succeed at.  Which makes it a genuine outlet.  I was raised with the sense that there was always something fun to do as long as there was something you could make, and you could make something out of just about anything.  I credit my mom for that.  So, with painting, my favorite part is still in experimenting with color (read: mucking with it until I find something I like) and trying out different materials (like salt, green tea, coffee grounds, house paint or feathers).  As a ten-year-old recently observed after spying my paintings for the first time, "So, you do abstract art."  Which is a very generous way of saying that while I can't make anything look like the thing it really is, I can sometimes make it feel like it, at least for myself.  She's ten, she likes to paint, we have an understanding.  

So when I finally set to the enormous blank canvas I tried really really hard not to get freaked out by how huge the thing was, and took it step by step.  As I start my next novel and hope to try something much larger than what I've accomplished before in writing, its probably something I should to do more of.  No way to know how the writing will turn out yet, but here's how the blank canvas became a painting:

background color: fog

taped off the boundaries.  this little trick is great if you always failed the "can you draw a straight line?" test

Painter's assistant

The tower begins to emerge.  I ended up needing three coats of the orange paint (which just happened to be the same orange paint I used on my writing desk) for it to look solid.

Tape removed.  Removing the tape is by far the most fun part of the process.  I imagine it's like getting plastic surgery and not knowing what you really look like until you remove the bandages.

Close up of the fog.  I used modeling paste for the very first time.  A friend had given it to me and I didn't even know what it did.  Googled it and soon found what I'd been missing all my life: the ability to add texture to the paint.  


The finished product!  Fog enhanced! 
   
I'm 85% happy with how it turned out, which isn't bad.  I feel slightly less intimidated to try another similarly scaled project.  And perhaps best of all, now when it's too foggy to spy Sutro Tower from out the window (and because I'm in the Inner Richmond, that's like every other day), I have my little version above the mantle.  

Comments

  1. I think your painting is wonderful. It is truly an ode' to good ole' San Fran!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

My Litquake 2012 Report

I've been avoiding putting this together, because a part of me really doesn't want this year's Litquake festival to be over already.  The other part of me is still cranky-tired, wandering around trying to get to all those projects I said I'd get to after Litquake, and feeling post-Christmas like. In short, this year's Litquake was AMAZING.  Every year has been awesome, but this one was particularly special for me because I got to actually help plan the awesome.  As a volunteer during the festival for the past several years, I definitely felt like I contributed to making each event I helped at awesome, but this year, being on the committee,* I got to witness the tremendous build up to the festival that happens the whole year prior.  The amount of love, sweat and time that goes into it is incredible, and I'm not sure I've ever been part of something so cool.  Which is not to say I'm not still cranky-tired and looking forward to feeling fully recovered.

What To Expect When You Are Expecting A Pandemic

“When I think about all that has to transpire to get from pregnancy to the birth, I am overwhelmed by time and the unknown. It’s not useful to contemplate. There is only today, and it is good.” I documented my move from ambivalence about parenting, to IVF, to motherhood, as well as all of Year One. I did it longhand because that’s what I did back then. So now, finally, I’m typing all those pages up, in part because of the great What If that living amid a pandemic creates. And I came across this yesterday and it is so true for the current moment, for this, the fifth week of Sheltering in Place. Ways this time is like pregnancy: It can make you fat. It will definitely make you crave near-constant meals and snacks. You will swing from feeling good to anxiety-laden, angry, irritable and back again several times a day. You will want to know how this will all unfold, how hard it will get, exactly how you and your life will be changed. You can’t know any of that. Ther

New writing desk!

I promise to talk about less domestic things at some point, but I'm still in that critical nesting-the-place-up mode.  And I just bought a desk!  Now, I did have a writing desk in my old place.  It was also my breakfast nook, dining room table and chopping block.  It served its purposes well.  It had been in my family's home as a kitchen work surface, then I adopted it when I lived in Chico (way back in '96-'99) and used it as a dining room table.  Then it lived in my kind, former roommate's family's barn for a few years while I was away at Seminary, and she kindly gifted it back, complete with little mouse teeth nibble marks when I moved into San Francisco.  That table and I had history.  I wrote a memoir of all the homes I'd lived in on it, all of my MFA papers were written there, and the novel that I finished earlier this year was entirely drafted and re-crafted there.  And given my proclivity to inanimate object loyalty (see The Blue Armchair ), I felt b