I Should Wonder

I owe so much to my painting professor this semester – Laura Alexander. She has opened my mind in many ways to different styles and types of painting, allowing the way I view and create art to expand positively. Laura has given me the confidence to try new techniques, things I probably wouldn’t have if not for this class, and I believe it has enhanced my work greatly. Some of my favorite pieces I’ve ever created have come about thanks to Laura.

Laura’s Painting II course has been divided into three portions – still life, figure, and abstract. This week we began abstract. Before we were allowed to even touch our canvases Laura had the class review a PowerPoint she created that displayed different works by a range of abstract painters. She then laid out selection of books to inspire us further. She really wanted us to think and reflect on different styles, color schemes, and ideas before jumping into anything.

I picked up a book dedicated to the artwork of Joan Snyder. I was immediately in love. Joan is an abstract painter who uses flowers and herbs in many of her paintings. This mixed media effect comes through so strongly in her works – combining bright globs of paint with delicate twigs and flowers. The finished pieces are gorgeous and curious. In every painting she seems to apply the paint differently – there are visible signs of palette knives, brushes, and watered down paints that have dripped around and spread about. They are not neat and clean and ordered works. They are organic and loose and oh-so wonderful. I love that she includes fragments of nature in these pieces. My favorite piece in the book was one titled SHOULD YOU WONDER. It was created in 2002. This piece was without a doubt the inspiration for what I ended up creating.

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SHOULD YOU WONDER (2002) by Joan Snyder – oil, acrylic, herbs, and fabric on linen

I scavenged up flowers, plants, berries, cardboard, and cork on the morning of the following class. I’d had a good night’s sleep and was ready to create. I covered my canvas with paint and had sewn on some of the flora with orange thread. I added hints of green and purple to the canvas but I was completely unsatisfied. The majority of the piece was beige and it just looked so blah to me. I asked Laura for her advice, and it was great as usual. She urged me to retrieve the book I’d been inspired by and step away from the piece for some time.

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I left the classroom and had a snack. I opened the book and skimmed through until I found SHOULD YOU WONDER, the piece I loved the most. I examined it thoroughly for about fifteen minutes. I analyzed the plants and herbs she used, the way paint was applied to the canvas, her color choices, etc. When I returned to the classroom I stood in front of my piece, book opened to SHOULD YOU WONDER in my hands, and knew I wanted so desperately to be as free, daring, and brave as Snyder was. Laura said she could tell I wanted to be loose, but sensed that I was apprehensive because I might be afraid to ruin my piece. She was right. She told me that often time when she is working herself she photographs her piece at different stages. This way if she messes up or gets to a point where she no longer likes the direction she’s headed in, she can fix it and go back to what it was like at a previous stage or she can look at one of the photos and recreate that piece again on a new canvas.

I snapped a few pictures on my phone, took a deep breath, and jumped right into it. I applied paint thickly with a palette knife, swiftly applied it with a fan brush, and watered it down to drip it on the canvas. I was using bright colors and I was having incredible fun. I painted over flowers and smushed them with my brush. I stopped caring so intensely about “ruining” the piece, knowing it could always be remade if need be.

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I’m happy to say that in the end I didn’t ruin the piece at all. I love it a thousand times more, and would say it is my favorite piece of work from this semester. I find it so important to look at the work of other artists because there is so much to learn and obtain from their ways of doing things. Laura always says to “Keep looking!” and that definitely helped me get through this painting.

I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and being experimental. I am thankful to Laura for making me feel comfortable enough to do so. Laura and I both agreed that I could stop working for the day – I didn’t want to go overboard with color. I told her I wanted to take a break and look back on it in a few days and see if it needed more of anything. She thought this was a smart idea. She also said I should make another similar piece and go big with it!

I was battling so many ideas of what to do with all my free time over Thanksgiving break. I knew I’d spend it painting, but sometimes I get caught up in so many different ideas that I burn out my mind before I even get into my studio. I am sold on this idea. I plan to spend all break creating a series inspired by the lovely work of Joan Snyder – I could not be more excited to experience art-making in a whole new way. Stay tuned for a future blog post on how these pieces turn out! 🙂

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SHOULD YOU WONDER photograph: http://www.joansnyder.net/paintings.php?image=89

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