Friday, September 2, 2016

Looking back.

Reflection: interior with lamp, 2015. Gouache on paper. 4 x 5 inches.

Last year I started to make small studies from a series of photos, while Mum watched movies. Studio time was at a premium when she was with us, but there were opportunities to get grounded and meditative. The freedom to experiment with small works like this was amazingly nourishing.

Sunday, August 28, 2016


 Night 8.26.16, spray paint on velvet, 11.5 x 13 inches

This scrap of fabric feels like it could have functioned like a political talisman, rolled up in a saddlebag as revolutionaries galloped through the night.  

Sunday, August 21, 2016

From light to dark... 

Birds: shadows and reflections (sun, wood paneling, taxidermy case with stuffed quail, and incidental bird ornament), 2015. Digital image. 
In the dining area there's a glass case containing stuffed quail that was given to Craig's dad (he loved hunting). I found a small ceramic bird ornament in mum's belongings and casually put it on the taxidermy case. I liked the visual pun. The late sun comes in to the room and creates all sorts of shadows and reflections... I love it that the shadows and reflections of dead birds and their case with a fake bird perching on top are fleetingly displayed on wooden paneling - a thin veneer of once-living matter, itself. 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A new painting... 16 x 16 inches. Acrylic on birch ply.
A product of process and intervention.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Commission complete.

   Blue Tower I, II & III (triptych), 2016.  Acrylic on birch ply, 30 x 35 inches each.

Earlier this year I finished a commission of paintings for the boardrooms of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, LLP in Charlotte, NC. This firm has many artists' work in their offices around the USA.  

The law firm was moving to new premises in the Bank of America Plaza skyscraper - an impressively shiny tower.  The location is ultra modern, and their offices are on the 22nd and 23rd floors with full height glass walls on the outside. Awesome views.... standing that high above the city with only glass between me and the drop blew me away. 

Tower (reflection), 2016. Acrylic on birch ply,  40 x 70 inches.

The building with its shiny glass as boundary between office and city intrigued me.  My work plays with flatness and space - i.e. shadows are flat silhouettes representing spatial situations, and mirrors are seemingly impenetrable surfaces but reflect infinite depths. Previous paintings and photographs have focused on curtains and views through windows (of homes, trains or cars). 

Tower (night), 2016. Acrylic on birch ply, 30 x 60 inches.

The geometric structure gives form to the monumental power of commerce, but the way it is treated can take it in a number of directions.  It would be easy to show the brutal, fascist side of skyscrapers (like Hugh Ferriss), or zero in on their faceless anonymity, but my reaction is different.

The seemingly impervious and faceless buildings also house people who make choices each day.  The huge windows must make the outside environment more visible than many other offices do, and the occupants could be encouraged to notice clouds, and the different qualities of light during their daily round. Perhaps by capturing some of the fleeting and intangible beauty of this miraculous world, I could remind them how precious it is.

Construction (vertical columns), 2016. Acrylic on birch ply, 38 x 60 inches.

I created the initial proposal for all the paintings in Photoshop, translating my early sketches and ideas into images that conveyed the concepts, and which looked finished enough to make meaningful decisions about.  

Construction (layers), 2016. Acrylic on birch ply, 39 x 50 inches.

To mix things up a bit, these vertical pieces are riffs on using value and color to construct the illusion of flatness and depth.  Each boardroom was named after a city where the firm has other offices. This last painting in brilliant blues, purples and yellows, was inspired by the Tampa boardroom. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Deskilled drawing using gravity

Here I'm using stenciling to create traditional-looking representational drawings that are actually arrived at very differently.  The images look as if they could have been drawn using pencil or charcoal, but are created by the objects as they deflect iron ore particles. 
Heather Lewis, Folded Lace, 2013, (detail)
granular ilmenite, acrylic medium, paper, 17.75 x 15 inches

This is nearer to industrial stenciling processes than the overhead projector drawing, in that it does not involve any hands on adjustments... but it doesn't mean that no skill is involved.  For example Balinese craftsmen deskill the creation of repeat patterns in batik fabric by using preformed stamps, but this is in itself quite a skilled operation. Their process is part of the evolution of unique images into the mass production of fabric lengths. (Note, I'm not interested in replicating images - we already have that in the bag. I'm interested in exploring what non-traditional approaches have to offer drawing itself.) 

Traditional drawings usually need to be "wrestled" into completion. They progress by being continually observed, evaluated and adjusted. Re position certain lines and sections. Make it darker here, add detail there, remove that section completely because it is redundant etc. So, I also had to evaluate the results of my gravity stenciling. Like proofing an artist print I guess. 

Heather Lewis, Brush, granular ilmenite, acrylic medium, paper, 9 x 7.25 inches

In the first few stenciled drawings of each item (not shown here), the image was found to be lacking - it was too pale, not enough contrast and therefore definition of the object. Or it was not composed satisfyingly, etc. As the stenciled drawing is a "one shot" affair, each time I adjusted the process itself I created a new drawing until it met my criteria of worthiness. One difference to the traditional drawing evolution is that the layout of the stenciled drawing is always "correct" - it is directly derived from the object and cannot be otherwise. 

So, the deskilled stenciling process is effective as a means to collect information, and, directed by very traditional decisions, produces what could be seen as a drawing in traditional terms.  

Deskilled drawings - with projections.

To continue exploring stenciling as a process within traditional drawing, I am using an overhead projector to form the original image. 

I discover that this method helps with the layout but does not take skill out the drawing process! It is difficult to draw from a projected image and observation skills still apply as much as they would in any traditional drawing. 

I experiment to find objects that are more than silhouettes. Clear plastic and glass work really well on the overhead as seen below - this is a projection only. No drawing as yet.

 The arches paper roll is 42 inches wide. The image looks great as a projection, I go.
Roughing in was the easy part!  Now with the image generally in place, things get interesting... 

The image below shows projection and drawing occurring at once. As you can imagine, its hard to see what is projected and what is actually drawn. Its essential to evaluate them separately so I use a piece of blank paper to shield the drawing or to reveal the projection by turns.  

I also make many trips back to the projector to switch it off and on, to compare. You really have to scrutinize the drawing to give it the same values and nuances as the projection.

A drawing  is simply a collection of information that echoes optical reality. Put the right combination of light and dark in the right places, in the right shapes, and the illusion "magically" appears. Its a question of getting the exact relationship between these elements.  

Eventually I even projected the image onto the wall next to the paper (this is not shown) and checked it that way too.  Add, erase, adjust. Repeat... 

Finally...its as close as I can get to the original.