What’s done for December 12, 2017

I’m not sure these paintings are complete. Especially the “Digestive System”, but this is what I have to date. These paintings will be put aside for several months before I decide if they are done yet.

Although at the beginning I attempted to add a lot of meaning and intent to the composition (medical diagramming, health authority budget numbers and technology) towards the end I worked more intuitively, playing with colour and editing out the literal content.

I appreciated being able to take time on these works this semester, as opposed to rapidly producing works on a weekly basis. I find working slowly, changing, correcting, adjusting, editing and actually allows a lot of other idea’s to percolate. I like using painting as a method for thinking.

“Lymphatic”, M. Smith, acrylic and oil on Canvas, 36″ x 30″, Dec. 2017
“Circulatory”, M. Smith, acrylic and oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″, Dec 2017
“Digestive”, M. Smith, acrylic & oil on canvas, 36″ x 30″, Dec 2017
“Skeletal”, M. Smith, oil on canvas, 48″ x 34″, Sept. 2017


Today I started in on the “digestive system” piece. I started by figuring out what colours I wanted to use.

I’ve included my notes. I use a “stick man” colour wheel to plan what colours I want to use. I spend some time thinking about complements, harmony, tone etc before mixing my palette. I only do this when I start a painting. As I progress, I work more intuitively adding additional colours as needed, but sometimes I look back at my notes to try to remember what colour vibration I wanted to highlight. I really enjoy playing with colour and using tinted grays to complement certain colours. Every painting is an experiment with colour. Doing a detailed “underdrawing” is kind of like creating an armature: it allows me to build on colour and shape.


I had posted some photo’s in my earlier blog “Stormy, windy skies”. Somehow I knew catching those photo’s that day was an necessary task. Now, I know why.

Remember this photo?






That day, the sky was brooding and the ridges of the hills around Kamloops were lit up dramatically. Somehow something of those hills existed in this “Lymphatic” painting which is now oriented sideways and being turned into a “landscape”:







Tweaking, thinking, fiddling, then just starting…

This week I spent a full day with the paintings, punching up the colour and detailing of the underdrawings using oil (mostly alizarin crimson glazes) and thinking about where I want to go next with these works.

The next day, I spent some time trying to decide what kind of colour’s I wanted to add. I am still thinking about landscapes in relation to what what I want to say in these paintings. The burnt sienna colour that currently dominates these paintings will mostly disappear, but I want to use colour that will highlight the little bits of burnt sienna that will remain. I chose to start working with contrasting violets and blues in a hue lighter than the sienna and added some dark and light yellows (ochre, raw umber & lightened desaturated yellow cadmium) to my palette. I would see were it would take me.

Which a eventually took me here:

Lymphatic System








But I was feeling a little stuck and not sure where to go next. So it was time to call it a day and get some sleep. The only thing I really liked at this point was this area of the painting:




Art Institute of Chicago

November 12, 2017 Field Trip

I always get annoyed at these really large galleries at the absence of women artists in history. I also get annoyed by the crowds of people “oohing and ahhing” around the Jackson Pollocks and the Andy Warhol’s. While attending this humungous gallery, I employed my strategy of only stopping for works that grab my attention. Perhaps ironically, or perhaps because I was subliminally searching for something specific; for the most part, women artists attracted my attention today. I didn’t know they were women artists until they drew me in. I am going to show a couple of these women artist who got me today, plus an Edouard Vuillard that deserves special mention.


Joan Snyder, “Summer“, 1970.

So notebook like…maybe a recording of colours she observed in the summer or a musical composition?…







Monika Baer, “Committed to Tradition“, 2014

I like the juxtaposition of abstract and realism. She works in a way I like, layering information and using both acrylic and oil.








Eva Hesse, “Untitled“, 1960

An engaging abstraction of colour and form. If the orange is a head, it feels deeply psychological…








Berthe Moriset, “Women at Her Toilette“, 1875/80

This painting is just beautiful in its brushwork, subtle colour and form. And Kudos to Berthe for being bad ass enough to be a painter in her time.







Joan Mitchell, “City Landscape“, 1955

This was the big winner for me. I spent a lot of time with this painting. Visually there was so much to look at. I was most drawn to the white area’s and how they contrasted with the darks and colours. It felt as if the painting was full of knowledge and information. Part of my brain understood this painting, but the logical side is having a hard time describing it. This painting hung in a room full of Pollocks and vacuous people dropping his name as they knew he was important. I could barely look at the Pollocks, they seemed so flat compared to Joan Mitchell’s painting. My iPhone photo does not do this painting justice.








And a shout out to the one male who really impressed me today: Edouard Vuillard with this work “Guelder Roses and the Venus of Milo“, 1905.







Again, my phone does not do this painting justice…

Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art

November 10, 2017 Field Trip.

I move through galleries differently than I used to. Now, I look at everything, but only stop for what attracts my attention or curiosity. Then I will spend time with that piece and then I might note the artist. I will often snap two pictures for my archives using my iPhone: one of the piece and another of the artist plaque. Sometimes reading the plaques affixed next to the piece annoys me because it can change the context of the piece for me. This piece by Tania Bruguera (Cuban) entitled “Poetic Justice” (2002-03), drew me in as a documentation of the everyday. It is comprised of tea bags and a small video screen that was playing footage of a man having his head shaved. Tea bags, TV and hair cuts seem so mundane, yet are a part of our human existence.

The write up about the piece said “…rows of canvas mounted tea bags with miniature screens displaying archival news footage to draw parallels between colonial history and news media”. Hmm thats not what I got, but I liked the piece.






The next piece that I wanted to note (I chose my top 4 pieces from this huge museum to blog about) was called “Atrabiliarios”¬†(1993) by Columbian Artist Doris Salecedo.






It was made with plywood, shoes, animal bladder and surgical thread. Holes were made into the gallery wall to install this piece. The artist said it was about “loss & memory”, but this piece resonated with me because of the shoes embedded within a suggested surgical context. Operating rooms are sterile environments with no room for the personal. The shoes feel like an intrusion on a man made space meant to be devoid of the personal. And what does that mean…?


I was also attracted to Thomas Hirschhorn’s work “Series B” (2000-01) purely for the aesthetics and the layering of, and editing of, information. It was made using marker, ink and magazine pages on paper.












The final artist I will discuss is Chicago artist, Amanda Williams and her work entitled “Color(ed) Theory” (2014). She paints (alongside teams of volunteers) abandoned houses in Chicago’s south side, in order to “highlight racially charged city spaces and to challenge and subvert persistent racial inequality”. The colors are specially choosen for their association with race and class. Most of these houses are eventually¬†demolished.