Welcome to 241 Part 2!!

“The imagination is embellished from actually looking.”–Nell Ruby

WE have now come to the intense part of the semester–exploring one particular project in depth for the next 4 weeks or so: 8-10 tentative work days in class, plus 2 studio days to present. Each artist must come up with her own schedule for time in and out of class, including benchmarks of progress and research.

The second part of the fluid media class gives students a chance to explore a particular project or painting in more depth. You may use any (or all) media from the materials we have gotten to know in class—watercolor, ink, gesso, acrylic and/or water soluble caron d’ache. All work should consider the idea of “fluid media” and steer away from more static drawing materials, although drawing will be useful (and important!) in the process of your painting.

Choose from the following list. You may work with one other person or in a group for the final project if you would like to. Groups should not be larger than four people, unless you are doing collaborative or combined projects. Each finished project will be presented to the class in a form appropriate to the project. All work should be supported by visual and developmental research that is to be documented and submitted alongside documentation of the final project. ALL PROJECTS will represent direct observation or LOOKING at a visual reference in some aspect. Each group member is responsible for submitting her individual project support documentation.

Group or individual:

  • Create a video that focuses on light and fluid media on layers of acetate or some other transparent or translucent surface. Focus on the abstract qualities of the media. If you use sound, it should also allude to fluidity.
  • Create a puppet show. You are responsible for the story, the puppets (figures), and the performance


  • Create a “Circus” or other event poster: include text and dates. Research the circus poster, design and create. 
  • Create a fantastic landscape (imaginary beings—but draw and gather reference material)
  • Artist’s choice (with agreement and discussion)

I have chosen to create a fantasy landscape–that is as far as decision has gone, I have waaaay too many ideas for one project (My focus, needs more focus. *Jackie Chan voice*)

Idea 1: fantasy landscape that winds up looking underwater, or on the planet Uranus (I have no idea why those two would correlate; maybe I’m thinking the gases surrounding and comprising Uranus and Neptune are so gorgeously aquamarine )


Finale Fantasy: Day 1

my still life in all its complexity: ladystuff on a table with 2 mirrors angled towards each other
mirror within a mirror within a mirror. So many reflections! So many lenses!! looks cool though

Vision in my head of my landscape setup: Still life of various accessories with at least 3 mirrors offering multiple views &angles, positioned so that the other two mirrors are reflected in one simultaneously.

Due to clash of interest, I had to (*tear! sigh!*) remove both of my original handmirrors.

Here was the plan: Day 1: Set up still life &decide palette. Day 2-4: Studies, sketches and photographic sketches of the still life from 3 main angles: aerial view of the still life itself, mirror 1 (the rectangular one, on the right side of the table), and the reflection within mirror 2 (round mirror, upper left corner of the table).  Research watercolor and mixed media artists.  Days 4-5: Start and finish drawing in forms on large paper/canvas (mixed media, but the substrate is still undecided). Day 5: Start painting the background, foreground and local colors through initial washes Day 6: Detail the forms. I gave myself a couple days of leeway just in case, but this was my tentative plan, not including time outside class.

WELL. After wandering through class finding various “feminine” articles for my still life and discussing with my peers the aims of my latest women’s studies exercise (field work, discovering patterns of gender socialization in children’s clothing stores, specifically Target), VOILA!! I had yet another Aha! moment. Why not incorporate your concept from art 160 midterm last year–beauty  standards of society and gender socialization?Gender socialization is how we in society are trained subliminally and overtly to regard masculinity and femininity.

When I proposed this to Nell, she helped me fine tune my ideas and my intricate, overly complex still life (pictured above):

Plan B: Mirrors reflect, as does society: gender socialization is a product of people reflecting on themselves. So the reflection in the mirror showcases the object that reflects society’s conception of femininity. The “real” object juxtaposed against the normative object shall represent reality for the majority of women (working class, marginalized groups, etc.) For example, a plain, black A-cup sports bra pictured on the table while a purple, frilly lace C-cup bra reflects in the mirror. Nell suggests I let the complexity come from my audience, not from my still life (LOL)

SO, Plan B simplified: I am doing a series: bra v. bra, shoe v. shoe, scarf &glove v. Scarf &glove…I COULD inverse the frilly & plain and put the plain object in the mirror (following intuition; here we go again *shhhh!) Each painting shall be around 12″x 16″ on Rives BFK paper.


There is no such thing as lines. Pt 2

Here is a picture of the sketch I did (10/18) for the one-day project:

1 graphite stick +1black oil pastel +55 minutes +CAREFUL observation! 🙂

It’s funny how each of us arbitrarily positioned our easels in relation to the angle she THOUGHT she wanted to look at the object not yet in front of her. In the case of me and about 6 other people, the stupendous still life before us was a very abstracted mannequin head that completely lacked facial features–I found it “just vague enough to work,” for it was divided into these beautiful planes of light and shadow. Of course, the lighting in Dana is completely different at 9:30 a.m. versus 7:20 p.m., so I couldn’t really refer to my sketch when painting, except in terms of scale and general positioning of one shape compared to another.

Anyway, today (10/24/11) we critiqued our painted squares. Most of us noted that this experience of sketching with the paint varies from what we’d usually have by sketching the painting with pencil onto the canvas first: There is more of a relationship with the sculpture/object as one continues to lay paint on the canvas; each artist got to know shape and subject better.

Working with acrylic paint after weeks of almost strictly watercolors was disorienting, even for those of us who were quite accustomed with using acrylic before enrolling in this class. As with any medium, acrylic came with its highs and lows: it DID allow us to make true white for the first time all semester, as well as go back over unintended or unwanted marks. A molecule away from solid plastic, acrylic is a more opaque medium that didn’t necessarily blend “better” than say, watercolor or ink, mainly because it dries so quickly (another positive-negative). Acyrlic+gel=goopiness (increased viscosity within a not-quite liquid media). In a word, this painting was an exercise in really knowing your tools.

Also, size does matter, we saw for ourselves. Completeness of space was easier to achieve on the 10″x10″ canvas, than it may have been on a more narrow panel, as in the Archer pad, or on a larger, rectangular canvas.

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Taking the 5 minute intermission an hour into the project physically and emotionally refreshed the majority of us who did stop. Walking around was the ideal way to see more techniques from our peers. Nell expounded on that point during critique, expanding it to three prevailing precepts about the fact that an artist “can’t work in a vaccuum:”

Through exposure to other artists, one is reminded:

1).  I am a contender.

2). An artist cannot just produce an output; they have to take in ideas, concepts, creative energy as well.

3). In participating in community with other artists, one can find an identity, a connection to why you’re doing what you’re doing.

Tip of the Day: “Always use a visual reference for authenticity.”

There is no such thing as lines.

Miscellaneous quotes from class 10/24/11:

“You’re really the only class in my heart right now.”

“Awwwwww!!” Lol

New assignment: a one-day relatively intense painting from direct observation. We are to draw with acrylic paint, thoroughly covering a blank 10″x10″ canvas with a complete painting in the space of two hours, that’s it.

Our eye flows around the still life at complete will; it only stops when our brains call for us to translate space into objects. Constraints are composed when we focus on replicating whole forms. The objective of this project? to follow our eyes and paint in values as shapes:

The objects may or may not emerge, but we’re not painting objects. The path of the eye roaming the still life is reflected on the page; shapes are delineated by how we see value. No lines, only the edges of forms.


WE the artists shall not really know what objects Nell will include in the 2 respective still lifes that we will choose from, not until later; right now all we have to view is this one clear box covered by a white tablecloth in one area, and a table covered by a large black tablecloth in the other space…I am both intrigued and a bit perturbed, apprehensive? about what possibly Nell could be devising for us to use…No simple project is as simple as it sounds, especially not in THIS class.

Rules/stipulations to this project:

1). We are to proceed from darkest to lightest colors, cleaning the brush in between shades. That’s right, backtracking is (technically) cheating.

2).  (obvious, but still) We are to examine the object(s) within and without the still life as closely, thoroughly, and deeply as possible, even if that means coming to the studio beforehand and creating several study sketches of space, texture, scale and proportion. In fact, mapping out this particular painting may prove most useful because of the most major (and glaringly obvious) rule:

3). WE MAY ONLY WORK WITHIN THE FRAME OF 2 HOURS. That’s it; no further manipulation can be done until after critique, if necessary.

In order for the values to come as forward as they should, we also must keep in mind that this painting is monochromatic–black and white. I hope Nell will let us choose some other dark, neutral color, like navy blue or dark brown. Black always feels too austere, too void of light; it contrasts well, but affects [my] mood within a work…

Thus far, this is what I know. At least we get to work with acrylic on canvas once this semester!! We also get this new medium to work with, a gel that thins acrylic paint (which tends to be uncooperatively globular within tubes and bottles) without losing any of the pigment or causing the paint to run, as water would do.

to be continued…